The layout of this cemetery is uniform, but each tomb is different from the other. It is an attractive, rather touching place and not the least bit morbid.
Because he did not have the money to pay for a monument to his grandfather, Walter Cottier sculpted him a wooden cross with his Swiss army knife. Other families were impressed and commissioned crosses from him. The Jaun cemetery committee liked his work and decided that he would be the graveyard's only cross craftsman.
Every monument, nestled under a little wooden shingle roof, is made up of a cross bearing a depiction of Christ, with a back adorned with a sculpted bas-relief. One side depicts the life or activities of the deceased, while the other shows a symbolic element related to the person.
Walter Cottier, a goatherd from a humble background, used his self-taught sculpting skills to produce funerary reliefs between 1948 and his death in 1995. A nature-loving perfectionist, he was never satisfied with his work. The families sometimes provided instructions on the decoration to be engraved. Sometimes they simply put all their trust in the sculptor. This was the case for the cross commissioned for the tomb of a young man. The impoverished workman waited three years before sculpting this field of wheat with poppies. In the foreground, a cob is broken.
The tradition continues today, as several local sculptors have taken up the baton. They place their gouges and chisels at the service of grieving families. Each sculptor's style is identifiable, yet the ensemble retains its coherence.
The music-loving cobbler sits alongside a music-playing angel. A locomotive, construction machinery, a woman with glasses stroking her cat, a cheese maker at work, a knitting basket, a hiker in climbing gear, a computer in a library, a Bernina sewing machine... The lives of the deceased in the Jaun cemetery live on in images.