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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, your own garden etc., 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….

9 thoughts on “Scattering and Cremation Ashes Law in France

  1. 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..
      Regards
      Richard

      1. Reply
        Rebecca - 4th May 2021

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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
      Richard

  4. 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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