Italian Designers Bank on Future Cemeteries Filled with Trees, not Coffins

Italian Designers Bank on Future Cemeteries Filled with Trees, not Coffins

Oftentimes, when someone dies, friends or loved ones plant a tree in that person’s memory. Instead of simply putting someone in the ground and marking the end of a life, planting a tree serves as a living memorial which provides an aesthetic and peaceful reminder of a treasured life. But what if, instead of planting a tree, you could be turned into one when you die?

Future cemeteries might not be dotted with tombstones and monuments, but with lush trees. If an Italian company is successful, a life-giving forest to honor the dead will be a reality sooner than later. And those trees will have grown from biodegradable egg-shaped pods containing the remains of the deceased.

A project known as Capsula Mundi is the brain child of Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel. The designers explain on their website:

“Capsula Mundi is a cultural and broad-based project, which envisions a different approach to the way we think about death. It’s an egg-shaped pod, an ancient and perfect form, made of biodegradable material, where our departed loved ones are placed for burial.

Ashes will be held in small Capsulas while bodies will be laid down in a fetal position in larger pods. The pod will then be buried as a seed in the earth. A tree, chosen in life by the deceased, will be planted on top of it and serve as a memorial for the departed and as a legacy for posterity and the future of our planet.

Family and friends will continue to care for the tree as it grows. Cemeteries will acquire a new look and, instead of the cold grey landscape we see today, they will grow into vibrant woodlands.

The project is still in a start-up phase, but encouraged by worldwide enthusiasm for our concept, we are working to make it become a reality.” [1]

Source: Life Matters Media

According to Citelli and Bretzel, the completely biodegradable Capsula is a bio-polymer which is a polymer derived from seasonal plants. Once buried, microorganisms in the ground decompose the pod, providing minerals and nutrients for vegetative organisms. Once the tree planted atop the Capsula begins to bloom, new life is created from the old. No more cutting down trees to make coffins. [2]

Green burials are currently outlawed in Italy, so Citelli and Bretzel launched a petition last year in the hopes of changing that. The two are currently working on a version of the Capsula Mundi for ashes, though actual sales have not started yet. [1]

So what if someday there are cemeteries made of trees instead of headstones. How will you be able to find your person in a forest? According to the site’s FAQ, each tree will be plotted with a GPS system to make it easy to find your dearly departed.

And should a tree become irreparably damaged or fall down (there’s not much you can do about lightning), a maintenance service will see to it that the tree is repaired or another tree of the same type is planted in a fallen or dead tree’s place.

And yes, Citelli and Bretzel are working on adapting Capsula Mundi for pets.


[1] Capsula Mundi

[2] NPR