General Information

Legal status of the ashes

Requesting cremation

Products for cremation

Funeral followed by cremation

Recovery of the ashes and temporary storage

Transportation of the ashes

Disposition of the urn and the ashes

Cremation and religious beliefs

French Statistics

Cremation in Europe



WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  General Information

Any authorized person (family, friend or social organization) may choose a funeral ceremony.

                                                        with burial of the coffin in a cemetery,
                                                        with cremation.

However, the choice must respect the wishes of the deceased, as stipulated by the law.
The authorities or the funeral parlours require no supporting documentation or attestation for this choice.

Any funeral parlour will offer a funeral with cremation. Cremation is performed within at least 24 hours or within at most 6 days of the time of death. Sundays and holidays not included. The departmental Prefect where the death occurred or where the cremation is to take place may grant a deferral to this time period.

The organizers of the funeral ceremony of a person whose remains are to be cremated must inform the family of the various possibilities for the disposition of the ashes (By-Law of Jul. 2, 1998).

The Mayor of the town where the death occurred gives the authorization or, if the remains were moved elsewhere, where placement in the coffin took place. A doctor's certificate is required (without forensic problem, the eventual cardiac stimulator must be removed).

Section 7, decree-law 98-635, July 20, 1998: "A doctor or embalmer must attest the removal of any battery operated prosthesis before placement in the coffin, if the deceased was fitted with such a device." (non-official translation)

With the exception of a cardiac stimulator or a device equipped with radioelements, there are no contraindication to cremation where an orthesis or a prosthesis (e.g. a hip replacement device) are in place; these devices must not be removed.

Cremation normally takes place in the crematorium nearest the place of death.
See rubric "CREMATORIUM : address and cost".

Whichever the type of funeral selected, organs may be removed (burial or cremation).
See rubric "Organ donation" (French langage)

Membership and payment of dues to a cremation association are not mandatory.


WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  Legal status of the ashes

The urn and the ashes are legally considered moveable property outside of any commercial transaction whose depositary is the person authorized to organize the funeral.


WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  Requesting cremation

One needs only to make his or her wish known verbally to his or her relatives or through a written note left with official documents to have a funeral with cremation. It is generally not mandatory to request cremation in a "testament" nor specify your wish to a notary, an association or a relative.

Example of Will & Testament to use in case of known opposition by the family or the relatives (to leave with a trusted person)  (French langage)


WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  Cremation Products

The coffin is generally made of chipboard with a decorative veneer giving the appearance of a traditional coffin, or in a less expensive wood (poplar or pine), or in complex composite paper.

The required thickness of the coffin is 18 millimetres instead of 22 millimetres. Coffins for incineration are indeed lighter and less expensive than those destined for burial or long distance transportation.

The accessories, such as handles and emblems are made of combustible materials. Flowers (natural or artificial) are never cremated with the coffin.

See rubric "Sample of French coffins".


WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  Funeral followed by cremation

These are identical to traditional funerals:
         - placement in the coffin,
         - closing of the coffin,
         - application of seals,
         - eventual religious ceremony.


WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  Recovery of the ashes and temporary storage of an urn

Following cremation, the ashes are handed over in a Ceremonial Room or a room dedicated to that purpose.
The urn is handed over to any person authorized to look after the funeral.
A room is reserved in the crematorium for temporary storage and to allow the family to reflect on the disposition of the ashes.
Temporary storage may not exceed a few months; the manager of the establishment must obtain beforehand an agreement specifying the length of time. Upon expiration of this time period, the family is requested to take possession of the urn.
If the family does not take possession of the ashes, they may be dispersed in the Remembrance Garden.

By-Law n° 98-635, July 20, 1998, regarding cremation. (French langage)


WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  Transportation of the ashes

A cinerary urn may be transported by any person or sent by mail or airmail (it is however recommended to send it by registered mail).

The Prefect, gives the authorisation for transport of the ashes outside the metropolitan territory or an overseas administrative department, in accordance with Section R. 2213-22 (Section R. 2213-24 of the Code général des collectivités territoriales).

In the case of a French citizen deceased and cremated outside of France, the return of the ashes is subject to authorization by the consulate. The urn will be sealed.


WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  Disposition of the urn and the ashes

The Urn:

  • In a funeral vault in a cemetery (*).
    Still limited in numbers; interment tax.
    (*) The Mayor cannot forbid the placement of photographs, flower holders or any other ornamentation on the individual seal doors of the columbarium (administrative tribunal of Lille, March 30, 1999, req. n° 95-3785).

  • Inside a burial vault.
    Unlimited number of urns; interment tax.
    Some cemeteries provide small size burial vaults.

  • Sealed on a burial stone.
    Urns of fragile material such as glass or porcelain are not allowed.
    Superposition tax; no interment tax.

  • Internment on a private property.
    Authorization required from the Prefect and the Mayor (interment permit).
    The town hall rarely grants an interment permit.

  • Immersion at sea.
    No authorization required.

  • Immersion in a stream or a river
    Not allowed

  • Disposal abroad.
    The Prefect of the administrative department where the closing of the coffin has taken place grants the authorisation for transport of the ashes outside the metropolitan territory or an overseas administrative department.

The Ashes:

  • Scattered in the Remembrance Garden.
    A specifically reserved area in a cemetery. The ashes are spread with a specially designed instrument.

  • Scattered anywhere in France, private non closed properties included, except public roads and public parks.
    No authorization required.

  • Scattered at sea.
    No authorization required.
    Nothing forbids the disposition of the deceased's ashes from an airplane (OG, p. 3851-3852, June 21, 1999).

  •  Scattered in a stream or a river
    Not allowed

  • Disposal abroad.
    The Prefect of the administrative department where the closing of the coffin has taken place grants the authorisation for transport of the ashes outside the metropolitan territory or an overseas administrative department.

There exists no legislation in France regarding the status of cinerary ashes. Some professionals and legislators suggest assimilating the status of the ashes to that of the mortal remains, which would result in questioning the freedom to dispose of the ashes.

See rubrics "Immersion in the Meditarrenean or the Atlantic".


WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  Cremation and religious beliefs

  • Christian faith :
    The prescription of 1886 deprived persons wishing to be cremated from a Christian burial.
    Since Vatican II, in 1963, cremation is not longer forbidden providing:
    1) it is not done for reasons contrary to the Christian dogma;
    2) it does not constitute a questioning of the belief in resurrection.
    However, the Church continues to favour the burial of mortal remains.
    Without authorisation from a Bishop, a religious service cannot be performed in front of a cinerary urn.
    Calvinists and Lutherans freely acknowledge the practice since 1898.
    Adventists and Presbyterians do not accept cremation.
    Opposed to cremation.

  • Jewish :
    Refuse cremation.

  • Islam :
    This practice is not recognized.

  • Buddhism :
    Cremation is allowed


WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  French Statistics

Numbers of crematoriums (France and Overseas Departments/Territories)
1975 1996 1999 2000 2003 2006 2011
7 72 76 91 106 117 141

See rubric "CREMATORIUM : address and cost".

National evolution of cremation (France) from 1979 to 1998, reference years of the diagram:


  1975 (2.100 cremations; 0,4% of deaths)


  1979 (5.000 cremations)


  1983 (10.000 cremations)


  1987 (20.000 cremations)


  1990 (33.300 cremations)


  1992 (43.300 cremations)

 1994 (54.500 cremations)


 1996 (66.700 cremations; 12% of deaths) 


 1997 (73.000 cremations; 14% of deaths)


 1998 (80.500 cremations; 17% of deaths)

Cremations in 2000 : 18% of deaths
Cremations in 2001 : 20% of deaths
Cremations in 2002 : 21% of deaths
Cremations in 2006 : 25% of deaths
Cremations in 2007 : 28% of deaths
Cremations in 2014 : 37% of deaths


Regions of France where most cremations are performed:

1) Alsace :

27 %

2) Provence-Côte-d'Azur :

22%  (A high percentage of Protestant in Côte d'Azur)

3) Lorraine :

19 %

4) Haute-Normandie :

18 %

5) Nord-Pas-de-Calais :

16% (30 % for the urban community of Lille only)

6) Bourgogne :

15 %

7) Languedoc-Roussillon :


8) Rhône-Alpes :

14 %

9) Centre :

12 %

10) Ile-de-France :

11%  (28 % in Paris)

11) Champagne-Ardennes :

11 %

Regions where cremation is less than 8%: Picardie, Auvergne, Franche Comté, Limousin.
Cremation is less common in rural regions than in urban regions.

Disposition of the ashes:

The return of the urn to the family : 71% Deposit in a columbarium (funeral vault), interment : 21%  Dispersal in Remembrance Garden : 8%

Analysis and reasons for increased demand:

  • Recent availability of crematoriums.
    Until January 1996-1998, 5000 towns and villages imposed a communal monopoly and... funerals with cremation are less expensive.
    See rubric "Monopolies or freedom of choice until 1996 - 1998" (French langage)

  • Economic crisis, breakup of nuclear family and fear of the grave being abandoned or neglected.

  • Evolution of mentalities and beliefs (*), cultural and psychological evolution.

  • The "industrial aspect" of some cemetery, the limited availability in large agglomerations, the sales promotion of 30 or 50 years concession instead of perpetuity concession.

  • De-christianisation of the population and beginning of acceptance of the practice by Catholics.

  • Ecological respect, research for some purification.

(*) What is there after death?
            - Nothing. (35%)
            - A new life (13%)
            - Communion with God (7%)
            - Reincarnation (5%)
            - Eternal life (3%)
            - Survival of the soul (2%)
            - Return to ashes (2%)
            - Happiness (1%)
            Source: BVA survey on August 29 and 30, 1998, by the magazine « Psychologies »

Main reasons for cremation in Canada:
            - Less expensive 25%
            - Lower impact on the environment (17%)
            - Simpler (13%)
            - No interment of the remains (11%)
            - Less emotional (3%)
            - The ashes can be dispersed (3%)
            - Religious reason (1%)
            - Cannot express it (7%)
            Source: Wirthlin Report 1995


WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  Cremation in Europe (2011)


Switzerland : 85 %

    Crématoriums : 29

Czech Republic : 81%

    Crématoriums : 28

Denmark : 77 %

  Crématoriums : 34

Sweden : 77%

    Crématoriums : 70

United Kingdom : 73 %

    Crématoriums : 260

Netherlands : 57 %

    Crématoriums : 68

Belgium : 48 %

    Crématoriums : 12

Germany : 47 %

    Crématoriums : 147

Luxembourg : 47 %

    Crématoriums : 2

Finland : 43 %

    Crématoriums : 22

Hongary : 36 %

    Crématoriums : 12

Norway : 35 %

    Crématoriums : 26

France : 32%

    Crématoriums : 142

Autria : 29%

    Crématoriums : 11

Iceland : 23 %

    Crématoriums : 1

Spain : 21 %

    Crématoriums : 131

Italy : 13 %

    Crématorium : 59
Irland : 11 %     Crématoriums : 4
       Poland : 10 %   Crématoriums : 13
       Portugal : 6 %   Crématoriums : 4


Country % of cremation Number of crematoriums
Japon 99,90 % 1545
Hong Kong 88,00 % 18
China 51,00 % 1753
USA 41,00 % 2124
Brazil 4,50 % 33


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