Funerary Information

Saint John's Abbey has been burying its monks in coffins made in the Abbey Woodworking shop for decades. 

The monks of Saint John’s would like to share this style of monastic simplicity and craftsmanship by providing a small inventory of burial containers for sale to alumni; family and friends.


Abbey Woodworking consists of a small staff of skilled craftspeople. Because of space limitations we produce custom furniture and burial containers on a first-come-first-served basis. If you are pre-arranging your funeral needs, you may arrange to store your purchase. We offer a stock selection of natural pine coffins and soft maple caskets. Wood used in our coffins is sustainably grown and harvested from Saint John’s own woodlands or can be purchased from local, ecologically minded providers.


We classify our burial containers as coffins and caskets. In our definition, a coffin is constructed in an "old west" or "body" shape. The sides angle from the shoulder toward either end. Coffins are constructed with a one-piece lid for full viewing. Caskets are rectangular in shape and have a two-piece lid for partial viewing. Our caskets have a hinged portion on the top half only - the lower portion of the lid is held in place by three pins. (Please see the Funerary slide show to view the options.)


We offer one clean, simple design that we feel provides a dignified burial of a loved one. Each coffin or casket is made with care; every detail is added by one of our professionally trained craftspeople.
All bottoms are attached with glue and screws. The end joints are securely screwed together. Coffin shoulder angles are constructed using a traditional cabinetmakers joint know as a spline miter.
Coffins and caskets are designed for the average sized person and will readily fit into a standard 30" x 84" vault. Standard finish is a durable clear varnish that shows the grain of the wood and simplicity of craftsmanship.


Our coffins are constructed of natural pine.

Our caskets are constructed of soft maple.


Coffins receive six painted steel handles that allow a steady grip and comfort for the bearer.

Caskets receive six brass plated steel handles that allow a steady grip and comfort for the bearer. Hinges and lid stay are solid brass.

All handles are securely attached with appropriate hardware.


In our monastic tradition, we believe a Christian's burial ought to reflect and honor the truth of the moment and contribute to a sense of closure. We recognize death for what it is: a passing over to the newness of eternal life. The mortal body is laid to rest in a dignified manner and covered over with the earth from which it was made. We believe the body, the temple of the Holy Spirit is the most beautiful and appropriate lining for any burial container. However, we can provide a simple liner for your purchase at an additional cost, based on fabric and labor costs at the time of your purchase. Your funeral director can provide a simple pillow to allow for positioning of the deceased.

Cremation Urns

Our cremation urns are constructed with solid wood sides and top. Our standard wood options are cherry, pine and red oak. Single and companion urns are available. (Please see our Funerary slide show to view the options.) 

A word about purchasing your own burial container:

You may not be aware of your right to obtain a burial container from a source other than a funeral home. You even have the right to build their own. Occasionally a funeral director will try to dissuade families from doing so, and even state that it is not allowable. Learn your rights in this regard. Visit the Federal Trade Commission's web site for more information:

You are free to choose a product from your local funeral provider or from Saint John's Abbey Woodworking. Most of all, choose what you want for yourself or your loved one.

Testimonials (paraphrased)

Dear Saint John's Abbey Woodworking,

I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the [craftsmen] who built the beautiful casket for my dear sister. Our pastor introduced me to the idea of purchasing a casket from Saint John's Abbey. The funeral was beautiful and the casket helped to complete the celebration of my dear sisters life.

Thank you,

Lorraine, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Dear Br. Christopher,

We were so pleased with the coffin you supplied for [William.] It was truly a thing of beauty, and it made his funeral so special.

Thank you from all of us.

[Elizabeth], Saint Paul, Minnesota 

Dear Saint John's Abbey Woodworking Department,

I am writing to extend our appreciation to you for the beautiful coffins that you made for Bishop Kinney and Bishop Hacker. The Bishops are very pleased . . . They are really works of art!

Sister Joanne Graham, OSB, Diocese of Bismark, ND