Bologna Certosa Cemetery
About Certosa Cemetery
This cemetery on the outskirts of Bologna was established in 1801, long after Certosa meaning Charterhouse of San Girolamo was founded here in the 1300s.
Certosa is one of the most famous cemeteries in Europe and the following footage will quite clearly demonstrate this for here, among the tombs and graves are some of the most spectacular sculptures and master art works in the world. Furthermore, this cemetery was also where artists often set the tone for future generations – it’s quite literally the modern equivalent of the cat walk.
There were many masters at work here but to name but a few they include sculptors such as De Maria, Putti, Bartolini, Vela and painters like Basoli, Palagi and Fancelli.
After Napoleon’s edict in the early 1800s architects began to design extravagant monuments and private chapels for the noble and bourgeois Bolognese. The Charterhouse was quickly transformed into a museum. Artists assumed the next role when they began sculpting tombs, statues and designing art work which heralded the dawn of artistic expression among the dead. Neo-classical monuments accommodate Realist art work and Enlightenment symbolism.
The roots for modern art were firmly planted here. By chance, this open-air museum became the catalyst for the first, if not, at the very least, one of the first ‘popular’ tours.
Some important characters from Bologna’s past who are interred here include the politician Minghetti, painters Morandi and Saetti, literary greats Carducci and Bacchelli, composer Respighi, industrialists Maserati, Weber and Zanichelli.
Many high ranking soldiers are buried here, plots among the gardens and along the corridors obviously dedicated to them. The most symbolic of their sacrifices for their country though is the War Memorial to those who fell during WWII at the Russian front.
Equally impressive though in another part of the grounds is the monumental Ossuary for WWI soldiers, for Partisans and even that of the Fascist Militias who died serving Benito Mussolini.
During excavations of the cemetery in the 19th century an ancient Etruscan necropolis was discovered. Scholars from all around the world flew in and began sifting through the ruins. As a result important relics from the area were brought to light and later transferred to the Bologna Archaeological Museum thus also confirming Certosa as a significant location in Italian history.
The cloisters next to the church of San Girolamo are not to be overlooked. Many of these buildings were erected in the early 1800s. In some of the rooms early paintings illustrate strong origins of the Bolognese school of art. From humble roots many of the decorative elements here including sculptures were done in poorly classified materials such as chalk, plaster and terracotta but once again, the historical value of these works cannot be underestimated.
Cemeteries of Europe – A historical Heritage to Appreciate and Restore, eds. Mauro Felicori & Anna Zanotti.