A 1,000-piece collection of exhibits at the Funeral Museum gives an intriguing insight into funerary tradition, burial rituals and the Viennese population's fascinating relationship with death. Among the highlights are the sober mourning garb, sashes and accessories worn by the city's gravediggers, as well as various contemporary examples of urns, coffins and hearses. There is even an emergency bell of the type commonly installed in the coffin which the deceased could ring as a last resort should they inexplicably come back to life. This invention was later taken one step further with the development of Rettungswecker, or emergency alarm, which was a wooden box containing a particularly loud bell.
One of the Funeral Museum's most popular exhibits is the reusable budget coffin, which featured a concealed trapdoor on the underside so that the deceased could be discretely "dropped" into the grave. Emperor Joseph II ordered its use in 1785 in a vain attempt to stem the Viennese population's growing obsession with having a "schöne Leich" or beautiful funeral - a burial on a grand scale complete with cortège and elaborate service. Although practical, the idea met with fierce resistance from the populace. After a series of near-riots and protest marches the Emperor finally conceded defeat and withdrew the royal decree.
Goldeggasse 19, 1040 Vienna