The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 3: European Gardens (500AD-1850)

Italian Cemetery Gardens

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117. Cemeteries. The emperor Constantine was the first who introduced burying in churches (see � 63.); and this unhealthy practice was continued for many centuries, from a superstitious notion that in holy places the body was protected from evil spirits. The first attempt to establish a public and park-like cemetery was in the Low Countries, by an edict of the enlightened and benevolent emperor Joseph. The example was followed soon after in France and Italy. At Genoa, the protestant burial-place is a small enclosure on a hill, surrounded by walls and planted with roses and other shrubs. (Morton's Protestant Vigils, p. 218.) At Leghorn, the English burying-ground has some of the tombs surrounded by cypress trees, others by neat railings of ironwork. The ground is enclosed by a wall, and the entrance kept locked. Among other tombs is that of Smollett. (Holman's Journey, &c.) At Bologna is a public burying-ground a little way out of the town, made out of the suppressed convent of Certocina: it was first applied to this purpose in 1802. It is an effort to give a kind of characteristic elegance to the different conditions of life after death. Rich dignitaries of the church are classed, and inferior clergy are arranged at a respectful distance. Arched recesses are made to receive statues and sarcophagi for the wealthy, and head stones have their allotted district. Sepulchres are marshalled for exhibition, with quaint fancies and insipid allegories;�bad monitors to the living, and destitute of any feeling for the dead. Here, in a room appropriated to skulls, is the skull of Guido, mounted on a bracket. (Duppa's Observations, &c., p. 135.) At Pisa, the Campo Santo is a large burying-ground, in form a rectangle, about 406 feet by 116 feet, enclosed within an arcade. It has its name from the holy earth which the Pisans brought from Palestine, in the year 1192, but the building was not erected till 1283; and it contains, besides the tombs, a number of pictures by the old masters. (Duppa's Observations, &c.) At Rome, Eustace tells us that the fields called Prati del Popolo Romano are used as a burying-place for foreigners:�'They are planted with mulberry trees, and adorned by the pyramidal tomb of Caius Cestius.� This ancient monument, which is supposed by Galiffe to have been only an ornament to the garden, is described by Eustace as being about 120 feet in height, and standing upon a basis of about ninety feet square. �Its form on the whole is graceful, and its appearance very picturesque, supported on either side by the ancient walls of Rome, with their towers and galleries venerable in decay, half shaded by a few scattered trees; and, looking down upon a hundred humbler tombs interspersed in the neighbouring grove, it rises in lonely pomp, and seems to preside over these fields of silence and mortality. The other tombs are in various forms; sepulchral stones, urns, and sarcophagi, �some standing in good repair, others fallen and mouldering, half buried in the high grass that waves over them.� (Galiffe's Italy, &c., p. 369.; and Eustace's Classical Tour, &c., p. 226.) At Naples, Eustace tells us, �the two principal hospitals have each a cemetery for the burial of the dead. The sum of 48, 500 ducats was raised by voluntary contribution for the latter; and a piece of ground was selected half a mile from the city, on a rising ground. A neat little church is annexed to it, with apartments for the clergy, &c., and the road that winds up the hill to it is lined with cypresses.� This burial-ground Blunt describes as �consisting of 365 separate vaults. Each morning, the large slab of lava which closes the mouth of some one of these receptacles for the dead is heaved aside, and is not replaced before the approach of night. To this pit all the corpses destined for burial that day are promiscuously committed. Thus the revolution of a year sees them all receive their victims in succession; while an interval so considerable allows one corpse to moulder before another is laid low.� (Eustace's Classical Tour, p. 500.; and Blunt's Italy.) At Venice, the practice of burying in churches has been relinquished for some years; and the burying-ground of that city now occupies the small island of San Cristofero, situated in the Laguna, between Venice and Murano. The burying-ground of the Jews, on the sandy islands of Liddo, is covered with tombstones bearing Hebrew epitaphs. The burying-ground of the protestants is within one of the bastions of the fortress of Liddo, and contains several tombs of English and Germans. (Cadell's Journey in Carniola, Italy, &c., in the Years 1817 and 1818.)