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cremation ashe law france

Scattering and Cremation Ashes Law in France

What is the law in France concerning cremation ashes and scattering ashes?

France is a progressive secular state, however when it comes to death it seems to be rather conservative in its outlook. Whilst just over half of the population (51%) assert being Christian (with Roman Catholicism being by far and away the most practised form). Even though the population are becoming more secular and cremation is on the rise, the law concerning scattering ashes and ashes in general has got more, not less restrictive in recent years.

Cremation ashes in France (they call them funerary ashes – cendres funéraires), despite what many think, is restrictive you are not permitted to:

  • Scatter ashes on undesignated or public land e.g. parks, beaches, or
  • Keep ashes at home*

*Since 2008, the law states that ashes are not to be kept at home and only those who have been cremated before 19 December 2008 (and have collected them) are able to.

Now families have a year to make a choice of what to do and they a few of choices:

  • Garden of Remembrance, or
  • Columbarium
  • Family mausoleum

Local Authorities with 2000 or more inhabitants have an obligation to provide the first two options in their cemetery.

During that year when the family can deliberate, they are not allowed to take the ashes home (they must be kept at the crematorium or place of worship) and if they fail to decide the authority will make it on their behalf.

What a shame, our French cousin don’t seem to have embraced the liberty bit of liberty, equality, fraternity in this particular case, I wonder what the rational was? Church exerting its influence or the authorities looking across the channel and thinking – What a they doing? We’ll do the opposite.  Oh well, vive la difference….

26 thoughts on “Scattering and Cremation Ashes Law in France

  1. Reply
    M - 6th July 2023

    My mother’s final wish was to have a small amount of her ashes left at Mont St. Michelle in France. Is this possible?

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 6th July 2023

      People do do it but no one will give you permission, the causeway might be a good place.
      Kind regards

  2. Reply
    Annemarie - 18th February 2023

    I know this is a long shot but does anyone know which cemetery in Lourdes pilgrims are buried in or ashes placed there. My sister was laid to rest in Lourdes in 1986 even though we are from U.K. but I have no idea which cemetery?

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 21st February 2023

      I afraid I don’t Anne Marie

      I have had a look, maybe these guys could pinot you in the right direction?

  3. Reply
    Susan K - 26th October 2022

    Does anyone know the logic behind not allowing ashes to be kept at home? It seems like a gross intrusion into the grief that, say, a surviving spouse would be feeling.

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 31st October 2022

      Hi Susan

      Sadly I don’t think logic comes into it, this is almost certainly cultural and historical – wrapped up in religion and the law adapting to cremation.

      Kind regards

  4. Reply
    jack u. - 22nd September 2022

    This part of the article is incorrect: “not permitted to: Scatter ashes on undesignated or public land e.g. parks, beaches, your own garden etc.”

    It should instead be: “not permitted to: scatter ashes on private land, e.g. your own garden”

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 3rd October 2022

      I stand corrected sorry – I shall amend

  5. Reply
    Ms Lily - 15th April 2022

    I’m curious if foreigners can use the Remembrance Gardens that are associated with the cemeteries? My Mother passed in January and while I know I can’t leave ashes of her and my Step Father at the Lover’s Bridge I know Paris was very important to them. Thus I’d like to leave a little pinch of each of them but I wasn’t sure if the Remembrance Gardens would be a viable option. Any help would be appreciated.

  6. Reply
    Judith DERRA - 14th October 2021

    The law is very clear in France: ashes can be scattered anywhere in nature so long as it is not on a public thoroughfare. You can access the information via – Code général des collectivités territoriales – article L2223-18-2

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 18th October 2021

      Thank you Judith that is so very helpful!
      Kind regards

    2. Reply
      Chris mayers - 4th February 2022

      My wife loved the mountains and I would like to take some of her ashes back to the French alps. Am going skiing in March. Would I be able to do what I want to do at the top of the mountain. What constitutes a public thoroughfare.

    3. Reply
      Frances Warman - 28th September 2022

      Hi there Judith, I’m hoping you can help with my question,
      I live in the UK but have family who live in France and it is my dearest wish that my ashes are scattered partly in the garden of their house and partly in the stream that flows by their property. Their front garden is beside a country lane so I’m concerned that the ruling of not being able to scatter ashes on a public highway may be relevant here. Their house and land is owned by them so technically I would be on private property. Also, I would be cremated in the UK so do you know if a french funeral company official would be needed to oversee things there or can I just leave it to my family to manage things? Thank you

  7. Reply
    Rebecca - 4th May 2021

    Dear Richard, I am hoping that you may be able to help me with an initial question regarding my Dad’s ashes, before I turn to Google Translate to contact the funeral home in France to ask them! My Dad and step-Mum retired to live in France, where Mum died and was buried. After her death I had to bring my Dad back to live in England and his wish was to be cremated and have his ashes taken back to France to be placed in her grave. Unfortunately my Dad died in February and I need to look at how I can carry out his wishes (when we are allowed to travel again). I have my Dad’s ashes and the appropriate paperwork to take them to France, but I wondered if placing his ashes in my Mum’s grave is allowed? Or will I have to find an alternative way to get them together again? Any pointers would be so gratefully received.

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 4th May 2021

      Hi Rebecca
      I can’t say I am qualified to proffer advice. If was me I would contact the site where your mum is buried. It probable that the plot was purchase (or leased) and adding your dad would be possible if a little tricky in terms of paperwork and translation. I would try and do as much ahead of traveling as possible, practicality if your French is not great, plus there can be a fair amount of paperwork to be navigated.
      I hope this helps, good luck..

      1. Reply
        Rebecca - 4th May 2021

        That has been a great help and I appreciate you taking the time to reply.

    2. Reply
      Mark Aszkenasy - 2nd January 2022

      Hi Rebecca,
      Sorry to trouble you, but I wondered if you might be able to advise about a link pointing to the paperwork required to take cremation ashes to France?
      Many thanks.

      Dr Mark Aszkenasy

  8. Reply
    Nina - 1st March 2021

    I think France is correct in having tight restrictions. The UK has a significant problem now with scattering of ashes in public places. Snowdon is awash with them, as are many beauty spots and other destinations (parks, stately homes etc.). People appear to take no time to research what guidance there is or think of the impact of their actions on places and people.

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 1st March 2021

      Thank you for your comment Nina, I agree in some respects, I think people scattering without due care is a problem and some people simply either don’t or don’t realise the impact they are having on other. Although awash would perhaps be over egging it. Ben Nevis has banned the practice and it might be sensible if other iconic spots followed suit. However neither do I think the draconian approach in France would work here either. Like most things balance and proportionality are needed to allow expression with memorialisation whilst not having an impact on others.

  9. Reply
    Barbara Vize - 12th February 2021

    I would like to be either buried or have my ashes interred in Lourdes, France. Is this possible for an American citizen from the U.S.?

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 16th February 2021

      Dear Barbara

      Ashes law in France is quite strict, I don’t know if it is possible. However I am presuming this is for religious reasons and that may potentially be a route for you, due to the location having such a prominence in the Catholic faith they may be a way through your church I would start by speaking to your priest?

      Kind regards

      1. Reply
        Judy - 19th October 2022

        Can ashes be dropped in the Seine River

        1. Reply
          Richard Martin - 24th October 2022

          I am that is legal in France Judy – I’m sorry.

          Kind regards

    2. Reply
      Annemarie - 18th February 2023

      My sister was buried there in 1986 but I can’t remember which cemetery. My Mum got permission from a Bishop here in England, he organised it

  10. Reply
    Dennis - 16th November 2019

    How about ashes at a military cemetery where my father is buried?

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 18th November 2019

      Dear Dennis
      Military graves are control and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commision and they have their own set of rules. We have a seperate post about them, have a look here – Military Graves in France

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