Staglieno, open air museum
Staglieno, open air museum

Is it a macabre fascination with death or just the opposite, this attraction to cemeteries? Everywhere, that is, except in my home country, where Calvinistic austerity seems to only allow plain gravestones, always evoking me with an intense sadness. There is nothing so jubilantly beautiful as the exuberant sculptures of angels and grieving widows gracefully draped over the tomb of a deceased loved one. I want something like that too when the time comes, and if that's not possible, I don't certainly don't need anything to take its place, not a sorry cross with my name misspelled and certainly not a immovable grey lump of stone that you will never get out from under.



In Genoa I am generously blessed with the Cimitero Monumentale di Staglieno, which is, according to experts, the most beautiful graveyard in Europe, even more beautiful than the famous Père Lachaise in Paris, which perhaps contains many more celebrities. When burial in and around churches was banned in 1832, there was a need to sacrifice large tracts of land to bury the dead, and in a wealthy city like Genoa, the city architect was commissioned to design one.


The poor fellow, Carlo Barabino, who by the way is credited with numerous extraordinary buildings in Genoa including the Felice theater, would not live to see the opening in 1851, because like many others in the city, he did not survive the cholera pandemic in 1835. Barabino's pupil and successor Giovanni Battista Resasco, was allowed to finish the job. In 1840, the Pantheon, originally called the Cappella dei Suffragi, was commissioned to be added.  He set the tone for how many cemeteries in Europe were built after 1850, a style which is now called Mediterranean, copied in many places, such as the cemetary of Père Lachaise in Paris which I mentioned earlier.


Should you have the opportunity to visit Staglieno, I can especially recommend the tour of the 100 women, which is very representative of Staglieno, images of daughters, mothers, women from childhood to old age, superb images that represent the style of the 19th and 20th Century.


The photos are not mine. Staglieno has strict rules for photographing the sculptures, making it almost impossible to take good photographs with a hand-held camera. I have chosen a few that especially appealed to me, but I suggest you go and explore this free open-air museum on your own. The photos shown are courtesy of the Municipality of Genoa and the Staglieno website.






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