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History

So where did Canada's first cremation take place?

At Mount Royal Cemetery . . . at the turn of the last century, crematoriums did not exist in Canada, despite significant demand. In June of 1900, Sir William MacDonald, a strong supporter of cremation, came forward with a generous donation for the construction of an appropriate building, and by 1901, Canada's first crematorium had opened its doors on the grounds of the historic Mount Royal Cemetery.

A Brief History of Cremation

Evidence of cremation dates from antiquity. Pottery vessels from the Neolithic period, filled with the ashes of several individuals, have been found throughout Europe. Between 1400 BC and AD 200, cremation was the preferred burial custom, especially among Roman aristocrats. The Caesar family was one of many to choose cremation as a means of disposition. Between the 3rd and 19th centuries, Christianity became widely accepted and its doctrines forbade cremation because of the belief that the body could not be resurrected if it were destroyed. Early Jews also prohibited cremation believing it was the desecration of a work of God. Orthodox Jews, the Eastern Orthodox Christian churches, and Muslims are still forbidden to cremate their dead. Other cultural groups, especially in India, continue to practice cremation. Today, cremation is practiced by some Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Hindus.

Modern cremation, as we know it, actually began only a little over a century ago, after years of experimentation into the development of a dependable chamber. When Professor Brunetti of Italy finally perfected his model and displayed it at the 1873 Vienna Exposition, the cremation movement started almost simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the British Isles, the movement was fostered by Queen Victoria's surgeon, Sir Henry Thompson. Concerned with hazardous health conditions, Sir Henry and his colleagues founded the Cremation Society of England in 1874. The first crematories in Europe were built in 1878 in Woking, England and Gotha, Germany.

To learn more about the cremation process download our "21 Questions about Cremation" information package.