Nestled in a trough valley between the mammoth rock faces of the Bernese Alps, lies the village of Lauterbrunnen. It is aptly named, meaning “many fountains,” as seventy-two waterfalls are scattered throughout the valley. In places the cliff walls that flank the valley are over 3,000 feet high. Friedhof Lauterbrunnen, the village cemetery, is located near the highest waterfall in Switzerland, Mürrenbach Fall, cascading 1,638 feet off the cliffside. The Lauterbrunnen valley is described as stunning, picturesque, and one of the most beautiful settings on earth.
Since the 13th century, when the valley first appeared in historic record, the land has passed through the hands of Freiherr of Wädenswil, Interlaken monastery, the Lord of Turn, and the parish of Gsteig bei Interlaken, and on to village governments. This 18th century drawing depicts the valley, waterfall, river, church and other structures.
In 2010, when two districts merged, Lauterbrunnen became part of the Interlaken-Oberhasli District. The striking valley, its surrounding mountain hikes and views, as well as popular winter sports, make Lauterbrunnen a major tourist destination year-round. You can visit by train or car and also take the tram to neighboring Mürren.
At the back of the village, Friedhof Lauterbrunnen is laid out in tidy rows with rock pathways, each plot its own flower garden.
The headstones are unique in shape and construction; such as hewn rock, granite slab, or wood with a small roof structure. Some of the headstones are etched to include a home in a mountainous landscape.
The cemetery allows burials for those that live in Wengen, Mürren, Gimmelwald, Stechelberg, and Lauterbrunnen. Often the town where they are from is included on the headstone.
We learn from this inscription that Markus Aellen-Graf was a glaciologist while living in the Bernese Alps. It’s likely he studied nearby glaciers, such as Aletsch or Eiger. In this cemetery there are headstones etched with a helicopter, bus, truck, tram, and even a sailboat giving us a glimpse in to their lives and hobbies.
The people of Lauterbrunnen live in what seems like a mystical land of waterfalls, myst, and crisp mountain air. An interesting sidenote, J. R. R. Tolkien visited Lauterbrunnen while on a trip to Switzerland in 1911. He hiked in to the valley from Interlaken. This experience stuck with him and influenced his creation of the valley of Rivendell. In The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien he is recorded saying, “From Rivendell to the other side of the Misty Mountains, the journey … including the glissade [of Bilbo and the Dwarves] down the slithering stones into the pine woods … is based on my adventures in Switzerland in 1911.” You can see the resemblance of Lauterbrunnen and Rivendell in his painted sketch here.
Have you visited Friedhof Lauterbrunnen? Tell us all about it!
Like others, we enjoyed visiting this cemetery. I had the impression that the graves were organized down the line by date of death, not by families as we would do here. Am I right on that, are they disinterred at some point and the cemetery functions as a revolving temporary burial spot? It would seem that is the case since it is so small and is so old.
bill straube has to be correct.the yard is very small.where are bodies removed to ?
I know in Germany gravesites are handled like this. My grandmother was had a grave when she died in the early 90’s, it has since been re-purposed
It is one of the most spectacular settings!
I get emails from Find a Grave and I found this information online. It is the most beautiful cemetary I have ever seen. I commend whoever started it and is keeping it up. It is breathtaking. Thank you for the beautiful sighting.
I agree Cindy, this is a beautiful cemetery one in which I have never seen before. I wish there were more like it as it makes an awesome resting place.
What a beautiful place. We spent a week in Interlaken a little over 20 years ago I thought it was beautiful too but didn’t know about Lauterbrunnen. I would absolutely made a point of going there. I can only imagine how beautiful it is up close and personal. Thank you so much for sharing this. The grave sites are beautiful. The tombstones are amazing works of art.
as in many cemeteries in Europe, due to limited space and age after a prescribed period of time occupants are disinterred and cremated or moved to mausoleums elsewhere
What if the occupants were against cremation ? Their wishes should be honored .
It is so beautiful and inviting that it makes me want to plan a visit there.
My husband and I were there in 2019. The most beautiful cemetery I’ve ever been to (and I am in the monument industry!). We noticed that they have a cart full of plants and flowers in the middle of the cemetery with an honor cash box. You just pick out your flowers, drop some money in the box and plant away!
Very beautiful indeed. Tom Jenkins
I was fortunate to have spent a week in Murren and visited he Lauterbrunnen Valley,.and it is indeed one of the most beautiful spots on Earth. Not surprising that Tolkien chose it for the idyllic setting in his book. As I get older I think of my visit there as one of the highlights of my life, and to make it even better my grandfather came from Langnau in the Emmental not too far away.
Very Beautiful! I wish all cemeterys looked like this one, so neat and well kept.
I have travelled to Germany & Spain, there is so much to see in our world, thank you for doing this online.
Thank you to the person on Find a Grave, thoughtful to think of me,
Barbara A ‘Dredge’ Seitz
I love this cemetery! It is beautiful! Thank you for sharing with us. I have a daughter who lives in Switzerland and ancestors who came from Germany. Everything in those two places looks like a picture postcard. Love it!
My Grandfather was born in Lauterbrunnen (immigrared to the US around 1918.) My family visited in the mid 70s and went to the graveyard. My Mom’s cousin showed us where relatives plots had been, and as a 9 year old imagined caskets were 10 deep or something trying to wrap my brain around the repurposed gravesites, but also not quite understanding the translation, lol! The headstones were actually wooden crosses at that time with metal plaques. The family had the old plaques at the house. The Graves were all planted with flowers just same. So pretty!
A lovely place of remembrance. In an idyllic and memorable setting. Thank you for showing these scenes !!.
Beautiful cemetery, but not sure I would want my loved one disinterred, let alone cremated.
Thank you for your delightful story. I walked by this cemetery on October 2, 2017 and took a picture. When I saw your article I went back to my photos to compare that it was the same location.. It’s beauty struck me. I enjoyed reading the history. I would be glad to share the picture if there was a place to upload it. I actually think it is a better picture than the one posted.
I don’t know about Switzerland, but in Northwestern Germany the graves are “rented”, if you don’t pay when the next rent is due the head stones are removed and a new burial can take place. They are “green” burials. No vaults, only wooden caskets. This is so the body decomposes and doesn’t have to be removed. The land is limited in Europe, not like the US.
Comments are closed.