Cremation is illegal on the island of Bermuda (actually 180 tiny islands). This is one of the first things the taxi driver told me on our way from the airport to where I was staying in the capital city of Hamilton. I asked why and she said ‘we didn’t want the chemicals and we didn’t want the fumes. So everyone here is buried six feet under in a wooden coffin’. I liked that everyone gets the same treatment. There’s no Victorian pomp and ceremony nonsense – noone lording it over anyone else in death. Just good old fashioned, environmentally friendly burial. The island is 21 miles long and 1 mile wide – so the quality of the air is a big concern. Fumes that affect one part of the island affect the whole island.
Here’s another Bermuda fact – the amount of churches per capita there is one of the highest in the world. There are churches all around. Mainly Catholic and Protestant, but there are also some non-denominational churches around, a mosque and a Baha’i spiritual assembly. It’s impossible to walk down the street without seeing three or four of these fabulous buildings. Some are very traditional looking:
And some are a little more surprising in appearance:-
The colourful churches blend in with the surrounding buildings, many of which are also painted all the colours of the rainbow.
Of all the churches I saw in Bermuda, this was my absolute favourite:-
High on a hill at the far easterly end of the island, overlooking the town of St George’s (the old capital of Bermuda, before Hamilton took over in 1815, and the oldest town on the island), is an unfinished church, sometimes known as the ‘unfinished cathedral’. It has no explanation to it (unless you Google it) and just sits there looking untidy yet somehow majestic, next to some houses. Basically, it’s in someone’s front garden.
Work started on the church in the 1870’s, but due to lack of funds and parish infighting it was never completed.
In 1826 a hurricane badly damaged construction work that had already been carried out and that was the final nail in the proverbial coffin for the Unfinished Church, which has remained charmingly unfinished ever since. You can’t walk inside it, but you can walk around the outside and look in through the windows.
There are other types of cemetery in Bermuda apart from the traditional church yards. The island is surrounded by coral reef and treacherous shallows, and the area is prone to tropical storms and hurricanes. Many a ship has become wrecked off the coast of Bermuda over the years. Interestingly, many of them were marked on my tourist map, complete with name of ship and date of sinking.
There are apparently some that are so near the shore that you can scuba dive down and have a look. I am scared of putting my head under the water and also it was November (still warm, but water cold), so there was none of that for me. But it was interesting to stand on the beaches and look out to sea and imagine the lost ships from decades past hidden just under the surface.
All photographs by Christina Owen, copyright 2014