A monk stands in a graveyard
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Louisiana monks in coffin casket row

Benedictine monks have always built their own caskets for their personal use at Saint Joseph Abbey, Louisiana. Only in 2007 did they decide to make a business out of it.

After Hurricane Katrina devastated most of the monastery's cypress trees, which used to be a source of revenue, the coffin-building workshop seemed like a good investment.

But before they even sold their first casket the monks received a cease-and-desist letter - the were being sued by the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors.

The board cited a Louisiana law that prevents anybody except for licensed funeral homes to sell caskets.

A judge ruled in favour of the monks, but the funeral homes appealed. A final ruling is expected in a few months.

In the meantime, the BBC takes a look at the rebellious monks and their battle for a free market for caskets.

Produced by Anna Bressanin. Camera by Ilya Shnitser.

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