Roermond, the Netherlands,

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Lovers Conquer Religious Division In Death

Visit the large municipal cemetery in Roermond, the Netherlands, and you’ll find a famous pair of graves, known as the “grave with the little hands.” The two plots lie on either side of a wall; one is in the Catholic section of the cemetery while the other is in the Protestant section. In the late 19th century, the graveyard was strictly divided into Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish areas, and it was strictly forbidden for anyone to be buried in a section that did not match their faith.

In 1842, a young Dutch Catholic noblewoman married a Protestant commoner who was an officer in the Dutch cavalry. J.C.P.H. van Aefferden was destined to be buried with her family in the Catholic section of the cemetery, but her husband J.W.C. van Gorkhum would not be allowed into the family plot. Van Aefferden came up with a solution, ordering two extra-tall grave markers, one with a male hand protruding and another with a female hand. When her husband died in 1880, he was buried in the Protestant section beside the wall; when she died eight years later, she was interred just on the other side of the wall, in the Catholic section. The eternally-locked hands have become a symbol of love conquering religious division.

 

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