Friday, 13 June 2014

Walk In Peace: a stroll around Roman Cemeteries

My dear readers, it's Friday the 13 and this is the 13th post of this blog! Don't you think it's the perfect day to talk about cemeteries?!

Before you start giving me weird looks (or start touching yourself in weird places, following typical Italian habits in such situations), let me introduce you the places that I visited a few days ago profitting of a day off work.
They can be considered artistic jewels and little outdoor museums, and I can grant you that walking under the silent cypresses and pines on a sunny day is a comfort for both spirit and body.

Let's start our tour with the Cimitero Acattolico that can be found by the Pyramid of Cestius, right behind it, poetically fitted in the Ostiense portion of the Aurelian Walls.

Nicknamed "Cemetery of Testaccio" or "Cemetery of the Poets and Artists", it is located in a rural area that was once considered a "Romans' meadow", a place where, since ancient times, farmers and workers enjoyed some relax or had lunch in the greenery, contemplating the Pyramid of Cestius, once one of the monuments most visited by the tourists.
Since non-catholics couldn't be buried in "consecreted soil", some places outside, or by the immediate vicinity, of the Walls were granted to them so to let their deads rest in peace.
The Acatholic Cemetery was granted to be build in that romantic spot in 1671, when the Holy Office accepted the request of the non-Catholic population to grant them that place to bury their deads without the "shame" of placing them with the "prostitutes, sinners and actors" of the cemetery once placed by Muro Torto, another portion of Aurelian Walls located by Villa Borghese.


The first corpse that was granted a burial "by the shadow of the Pyramid" was a certain William Arthur, a follower of the Stuarts who found protection in Rome and died there. Many others followed, an index of what was now a "tradition", so much that the place was nicknamed "Cemetery of the Englishmen" by then, even if the nationalities of the buried where not just related to the inhabitants of Albione's lands: ambassadors or foreign consuls posted in Rome could be find resting there.



--Once you reached the walls, if you turn on your left you can enter the "old" side of the cemetery, the one facing the Pyramid.
It has the look and feel of a calm, quiet park, and the view on the ruins is just amazing.
From here you can also spot a bit of Porta San Paolo ("Porta Ostiensis").




Among the interesting tombs and memorials, here are some of the most notable; I'll start with the famous "Angel of Grief", sculpted by William Wetmore Story for his wife Evelyn.
Copies of the sculture can be found in Canada, USA, UK, Costa Rica and Luxembourg:

Then it's the turn of Percy Bisshe Shelley, resting next to his friend William J. Trelaway:

This monument is dedicated to the memory of Sarah D. Greenhough, a member of the Arcadia Society, by her husband Richard.
It portrays Psyche "disvesting herself of mortality":

Memorial to John Keats:

John Keats and Joseph Severn:
Famous the "Here lies one whose name was writ in Water" inscription.

Once I'm done, I head to the "main dish" of this walk, the majestic Cimitero Monumentale del Verano, also called "Verano" or "Campo Verano" for short.
This name derives from the location of the campo dei Verani, a Roman gens which was located there.
It was converted in cemetery in 1812, following the order of Saint Cloud of 1804, that regulated the sanitary dispositions of cemeteries, placing them outside the walls of the city.
Besides Catholic tombs, the cemetery offers spaces for Jews burials (Israelitico) and a section dedicated to the fallen of WWI (Zona Militare).
The statues on the entrance are allegories of, respectively, Silence, Charity, Hope and Meditation:



For your greatest safety, here's a picture of the map of the cemetery, that you can find on the informative stand at the entrance of the cemetery; I suggest you guys to print it out and bring it with you:
On the map you can see the route of the bus servicing the place (in red) and the location of the toilets.

Now, I must admit that the company taking care of the cleaning of the place organizes some "tours" explaining the artists and historical personalities who star the cemetery, making it one real "outdoor museum", but I never managed to attend one of these visits because of work :/
Whenever I'll manage to reserve a visit I'll make sure to talk about this great place again, with more competence and knowledge.
--For now, just enjoy my random walk!

These pictures were taken in the area of the entrance and that of the Quadriportico, dominated by the statue of Christ the Redeemer:



















--This is the "oldest" part of the cemetery, so you can see some of the most beautiful and expressive monuments, dedicated to the memory of members of high society, nobility or religious orders.
They are located at the entrance of the cemetery to prove their importance.

I keep walking around the Vecchio Reparto to enjoy the original chapels, monuments and the quiet. From there you can spot the Rupe Caracciolo, that mimicks the harshness of a mountain that "covers" the Pincetto:





















It's difficult to look for the tombs of "celebrities" in such a huge place, but I still manage to find the most obvious!

The first is the one dedicated to Goffredo Mameli, the composer of the Italian national anthem, "Brothers of Italy":


The "family tomb" of Garibaldi's sons and their family:
Garibaldi was one of the unifiers of Italy, and he's buried at Caprera island, in Sardinia region.

The Basilica of San Lorenzo Outside the Walls is also worth a mention.
It's right outside the cemetery, and it's the burial of Saint Lawrence, Alcide de Gasperi (one of the founders of the Republic of Italy right after WWII and of the European Community) and five popes:
The first Christians built there their catacombs as a place to bury their deads and martyrs and pray for their souls: under the Basilica you can still visit and access part of the Catacombs of Saint Lawrence.

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