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Lying in state is the tradition in which a coffin is placed on view to allow the public at large to pay their respects to the deceased. It traditionally takes place in the principal government building of a country or city. While the practice differs among countries, a viewing in a location other than the principal government building is referred to as lying in repose.
Nelson Mandela was the first democratically elected president to lie in state in South Africa. The event took place at the Union Buildings the same site where he was inaugurated as the President of South Africa on May 10th, 1994. The body of Mandela was lying in State for 3 days starting on Wednesday the 11th of December 2013 and ending on Friday the 13th of December 2013. The body was viewed by thousands of South Africans before it was airlifted to Qunu in the Eastern Cape where Mandela was laid to rest on the 15th of December 2013.
In Canada, official lying in state is a part of a state funeral, an honor generally reserved for former Governors General of Canada and former Prime Ministers of Canada, and takes place in the Centre Block of Parliament Hill, in the country's capital, Ottawa. Ex-governors general lie in state in the Senate Chamber, while former prime ministers lie in the Hall of Honor. During the period of lying in state, the coffins are flanked at each corner by a Guard of Honour, made up of four members drawn from the Canadian Forces and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as well as members of the Governor General's Foot Guards for former governors general, and guards from the parliamentary security forces for former prime ministers. As in the United Kingdom, the guards stand at each corner with heads bowed and weapons inverted (resting on Arms reversed) with their backs turned towards the casket.
Provinces in Canada may also mount their own state funerals, and thus have a lying in state for a distinguished former resident. For instance, Maurice Richard was given a state funeral by the province of Quebec when he died in 2000; his coffin lay in state at the Molson Centre.
In North Korea, the body of the late leader Kim Jong-il was displayed in a glass coffin surrounded with red flowers at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang prior to his funeral which began and ended at the palace. An honor guard armed with an AK-47 was present. Kim Jong-il's father Kim Il-Sung, the founding president, is on display elsewhere in the palace.
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In Russia, during the time of the Soviet Union (1917–1991), the state funerals of the most senior political and military leaders such as Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko all followed the same basic outline. They took place in Moscow, began with a public lying in state of the deceased in the House of the Unions and ended with an interment at the Red Square.
For the lying in state at the House of the Unions, The coffin would be placed on display in the Column Hall, which would be decorated by flowers, numerous red flags and other communist symbols. The mourners, which usually would be brought in by the thousands, shuffled up a marble staircase beneath chandeliers draped in black gauze. On the stage at the left side of the Column Hall a full orchestra in black tailcoats would play classical music. The deceased's embalmed body, dressed in a black suit, white shirt and a tie, would be displayed in an open coffin on a catafalque banked with carnations, red roses and tulips, facing the long queue of mourners. A small guard of honour would be in attendance in the background. At the right side of the hall there would be placed seats for guests of honour, with the front row reserved for the dead leader's family.
On the day of the funeral, a military funeral parade would take place during which the coffin would be conveyed from the House of the Unions to the Red Square where burial would take place. Lenin and Stalin were placed inside the Lenin Mausoleum while Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko were interred in individual graves in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis along the Kremlin wall.
In state and ceremonial funerals in the United Kingdom, the lying-in-state takes place in Westminster Hall. The coffin is placed on a catafalque and is guarded, around the clock, by detachments each of four men from the following units:
Each unit mans the guard for a total of six hours, with each detachment standing post for twenty minutes. The four men stand at each corner with heads bowed and weapons inverted and their backs are turned towards the coffin.
On two occasions, the guard has been mounted by four male members of the Royal Family. At the lying in state of King George V in 1936, the guard was mounted by his four sons King Edward VIII, the Duke of York, the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent. For Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother's lying-in-state in 2002, the guard was mounted by her four grandsons the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, the Earl of Wessex and Viscount Linley.
For most federal officeholders, lying in state is the rare honor granted by the United States to a deceased official wherein his or her remains are placed in the rotunda of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., for public viewing. The casket is guarded by members of the armed forces. By regulation and custom, only Presidents, military commanders, and members of Congress are granted the honor of lying in state. Except for Presidents and former Presidents, the honor is not automatic. Not all those entitled to the honor accept it, however. The first leader to receive this honor was former Speaker of the House of Representatives Henry Clay when he died in 1852. Since then, the honor has been extended to 31 people, including 11 Presidents.
The process of lying in state at the Capitol is as follows. The coffin or casket is usually placed on a catafalque, usually the Lincoln catafalque, so named as it was constructed upon the death of Abraham Lincoln, from when he lay in state following his assassination in 1865. The casket is guarded at each of its corners by servicemen from each of the branches of the armed forces for its duration at the Capitol. In contrast to the practice in the United Kingdom and other countries of the Commonwealth, guards at the Capitol face the casket, hold their rifles with their right hand, and keep the rifle butt resting on the floor. After the viewing and ceremony at the Capitol, the remains are taken to the burial location.
The United States Congress has created a similar—though not identical—privilege for distinguished Americans who do not qualify for a lying in state designation. The process of lying in honor is very similar to that of lying in state with the exception that the honor guard in the Rotunda is provided by the Capitol Police or another suitable source.
Those who have lain in honor are as follows:
In 1998, Russell Eugene Weston Jr. stormed the Capitol and shot and killed Chestnut and Gibson. In response, Congress provided for their remains to lie in honor in the Rotunda. Chestnut was the first African-American to lie in honor. In 2005, upon the death of civil rights activist Rosa Parks, Congress permitted her remains to lie in honor at the Rotunda as well; Parks became the second African-American and the first woman to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda.
It is customary for a deceased pope to lie in state in the chapel of the Apostolic Palace and then in St. Peter's Basilica between the holding of a Mass of Visitation and a Mass of Requiem. The funeral of Pope John Paul II was an example of this custom.
The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria has a tradition of mummifying the deceased pope and placing his body on his throne to enable the church followers to have a farewell look at him for a short period of time. This tradition is one of the ways ancient Egyptian rituals survived in the Egyptian church.