The Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa is an open-air museum and is one the most beautiful and fascinating cemeteries in Europe.
Nietzsche, Guy de Maupassant, Mark Twain and Elizabeth of Austria are just a few of the many historic figures, writers and intellectuals who were fascinated by the site and mentioned it in their writings.
They have wandered among the large monumental galleries and along the pathways of the hill on which the cemetery lays.
Each of them has remembered the impression and the appeal of this place of public and private memories, in which the monumental will is indissolubly linked to the “romantic” suggestion of the landscape and the monuments, the architectures, the historical memories and the nature are tied very tightly to each other.
The Staglieno Cemetery was designed by architect Carlo Barabino in 1835 and built by Giovanni Battista Resasco, who continued his master’s work until World War First.
All the artistic languages of more than a century have succeeded: Neoclassicism, Realism up to the Symbolism, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, etc., creating so a school of artists, such as Santo Varni, Giulio Monteverde or Augusto Rivalta whose works have been spread everywhere in Europe.
But at the same time, it has been an appeal for many famous Italian artists, e.g. Leonardo Bistolfi (who has left some very important works in the cemetery of Staglieno like the tombs Bauer and Orsini), Ettore Ximenes, Pietro Canonica, Edoardo Rubino, Francesco Messina.
Although Staglieno is primarily a Catholic cemetery, it serves the entire Genoa community. Within its walls are two Jewish cemeteries, a Protestant section, Orthodox, Moslem, and military and civilian English burial grounds.
While all of Staglieno suffers from neglect, nowhere it is more evident than in these sections. The small Jewish community of Genoa was devastated during the Holocaust, and very few remain to tend to their ancestors.
Over time the Staglieno Cemetery became one of the most important and organic documentations of western culture through the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.
“… On either side, as one walks down the middle of the passage, are monuments, tombs, and sculptured figures that are exquisitely wrought and are full of grace and beauty. They are new and snowy; every outline is perfect.”
Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad , 1869
Within the walls of the cemetery is the Cappella dei Suffragi (Chapel of Intercessions), also known as the Pantheon, which preserves the memory of Genoa’s greats, while in the Boschetto Irregolare (irregular woods), inspired by romantic gardens designs, one can admire the tombs of Giuseppe Mazzini and other heroes of the Italian Unification.
The galleries and arcades are original centre of the cemetery. There are 290 sculptural memorials in chapels in the open arches of the Arcades, and 468 in the large internal Gallery Niches. In addition there are several thousand relief sculptures and columbarium niches adorned with individual marble carvings.
Once the original Galleries were filled, the new galleries of Montino and S. Antonino were added. These house more modern sculptures, many from the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods.
Especially worth mentioning are “La Venditrice di Noccioline” (the Peanut Seller) by Lorenzo Orengo, the “Bracelli Spinola Tomb” by Santo Varni, the “Oneto Tomb” by Giulio Monteverde, and the “Carpaneto Tomb” by Giovanni Scanzi.
Staglieno Cemetery is also famous for providing the inspiration for one of the most iconic album covers by English new-wave band Joy Division: Closer and Love will tear us apart, both of 1980. The pictures below are respectively the Appiani Family tomb and the Ribaudo Tomb.
More historic information about Staglieno Graveyard and contacts for visits here.
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