Budapest: ash-fountain!

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There is an entry on the Budapest ash fountain in the Encyclopedia of Cremation (2013) by our dear Douglas J. Davies. Seeing the fountain in action was a definite highlight of my trip!

One of the most creative systems developed in the later twentieth century for coping with large numbers of cremated remains is that of artificial fountains established at Budapest’s large civic cemetery. The system comprises several water fountains each capable of operating quite separately from the others. The key design feature of this system lies in three elements: a centrifuge located at the top of a central pillar; a surrounding circle of water jets; and a means of draining away the water and remains. The wider area also contains an open-air structure that could serve as a focal point for a religious ceremony. In effect it is an altar. At an appropriate point in the ceremony a special urn can be carried, formally and ceremonially, from the site of the religious or secular service to one of the pillars and fixed on to an underlying motor. The person performing that act then retires from the immediate area to rejoin any other participants there and, at an appropriate moment the water jets are switched on. This has the effect of projecting many jets of water inwards towards the base of the pillar. As the water pressure increases, these jets rise up the pillar until they reach above it, forming an encircling canopy of water. During this process the centrifuge is started up and this spins the ashurn at some speed. The holes in the urn, operating in a pepperpot fashion, allow the remains to be thrown out into the air and to be caught up in the water spray. The visual effect is that of a cloud forming amidst the fountain. For those familiar with certain religious rituals, the appearance is not unlike that of a cloud of incense. As the water falls to the ground so it carries the ash back to earth. A series of channels set within the lawned area allows the water and ash to drain away into a specially prepared soak area beneath the soil. This system, although highly technical in its centrifuge, fountains and drainage channels, still conveys a deep sense of a natural process. Set amidst trees and with well-kept lawns the cremated remains seem to return to ‘nature’.


Pictures taken in March 2016

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