The First Grave of René Descartes – Stockholm, Sweden - Atlas Obscura

The First Grave of René Descartes

Inside this church, a monument honors the first burial site of the famed philosopher.  

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As a Catholic residing in a mostly Lutheran country, when René Descartes passed away in Sweden, it was difficult to find a place to bury him. 

Originally, his remains were interred at St. Olof’s Chapel, a small wooden church far from the city’s center. After 16 years, Descartes’s remains were retrieved by French government officials and taken back to France. There, his remains received a proper blessing and Catholic burial at the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

In 1774, Adolf Fredriks kyrka was finally complete, replacing St. Olof’s Chapel. King Gustav III, still a prince at the time, decided to honor the philosopher and the location of his internment while in Sweden. Inside the church, a massive lead memorial was erected on a pillar. It features the face of the philosopher, along with a globe that is symbolically having its veil removed by an angel.

Know Before You Go

The church is accessible during the day and photography is allowed.

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