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Cemetery: from sacred space to an open sky museum

 When we talk about cemeteries, we start doing a series of superstitious gestures and in the mind appears images are not very reassuring. Although this idea, mostly related to the world of the macabre and the esoteric; there is another one that tells the story and the history of the art of these places.

ASCE, legal protection

“L’associazione Cimiteri Storici Europei (ASCE) born in 2001, is a European network,  composed of public and private organizations with the common goal of dealing with cemeteries as cultural assets, enhancing their historical and artistic importance.  In fact, the association aims to cooperate in the promotion, protection, restoration and maintenance of the cemeteries.  For this reason, it looks for sharing and exchanging common projects, encouraging the adoption of new technologies, involving both the media and tourism publishing. The association would like the cemeteries to be considered real monuments, to be included in the greatest places of historical and artistic interest also, they were better known by European citizens.

Highgate, the most famous cemetery in London 

To show what I have just written, I will talk about the most famous cemetery in London that takes its name from the neighbourhood in which it is located, Highgate Located in the northern part of the most famous city of England, it was opened in 1839, when the English capital didn’t have any burial sites, decided to build the “Magnificent Seven”, seven large cemeteries located outside the inhabited area. Highgate is a cemetery almost with spontaneous vegetation, where great personalities such as the philosopher Karl Marx, the writer George Elliot or the singer George Michael rest.

 Personally, I visited it three years ago and I remember the mysterious and sparkling air.  Covered by statues and vegetation, the coffins or chapels seems to be almost in the background.  It really feels like walking in a museum, seeing the lives of famous people, famous artists, lesser-known writers, but everyone elevated this place bringing a piece of its history.

 There are many legends of how the cemetery was a degraded place years ago, left to the neglect of drug addicts who, disrespectful and moral, opened the tombs from which it could be seen remains of skeletons.

Years, legends of vampires and ghosts had to pass in order for a local association to take up the situation again and transform the place into what is today, one of the most beautiful monuments in all of London.


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