In 1648 the Peace of Westphalia brought to a close the Wars of Religion which had followed
the posting by Martin Luther of his theses on the church door at Wittenberg in 1517. The treaty clauses were far from
establishing religious freedom, but nevertheless they led to some acceptance of the different religious professions.
In the early XVIIIth century a number of foreigners of different Protestant faiths settled in Rome. Although the small community was regarded with some suspicion it was given a burial ground near Piramide di Caio Cestio. Restrictions were imposed on the funerals which could only occur at night and with very little publicity. The site chosen was not very far from Ortaccio degli Ebrei (the Jewish Cemetery) in a part of Rome which, although located within the ancient walls, was actually a sort of urban countryside, remote from the city centre.
The ancient walls of Rome protecting the cemetery and Porta S. Paolo and Piramide di Caio Cestio seen from the cemetery
In the last years of the XVIIIth century what was meant by the local authorities to be a sort of second (or third) rate burial ground became
very popular among the foreigners visiting Rome: the Pyramid, the ancient walls, the simplicity of the site all appealed to the educated
traveller who had knowledge of Gray's Elegy written in a country churchyard and of Macpherson's Poems of Ossian.
In February 1788, in the last days of his Italian journey, J. W. Goethe wrote: Should I be laid to rest beside the Pyramid of Cestius, these two poems ("Hans Sachs" and "Mieding's Death") will serve as my dying confession and my funeral oration. Given that at the time Goethe was in good health and in high spirits the sentence shows how much he liked the site of the burial ground.
Palms and orange trees lighten the cemetery atmosphere
Tombs of John Keats and of his friend Joseph Severn; a relief portraying Keats
In the early XIXth century the cemetery was enlarged and a new wall completed the protection given by the ancient ones.
The oldest part of the cemetery is close to the Pyramid and here John Keats lies in an unnamed monument: Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water is the epitaph he dictated to his friend Joseph Severn, a painter who wanted to be buried next to him.
A relief portraying Keats is accompanied by verses, the acronym of which reads K-E-A-T-S.
K-eats! if thy cherished name be "writ in water"
E-ach drop has fallen from some mourner's cheek;
A-sacred tribute; such as heroes seek,
T-hough oft in vain - for dazzling deeds of slaughter
S-leep on! Not honoured less for Epitaph so meek!
Although most graves are very simple, a few are rather monumental and especially those of the early XIXth century have fine Neoclassic reliefs: the image above shows on the left a relief portraying the Angel of Death bringing away a woman (Elisa, wife of George Watson, a lady from Massachusetts, or to be consistent with the Latin epitaph "Massachusettensis") mourned by her husband and children: all dressed as ancient Romans; the sculpture on the right portrays Psyche.
Monument to Devereux Plantagenet Cockburn
John Keats was not the only foreigner who came to Rome hoping the Italian sun would restore his health. The young man (shown above) portrayed with his beloved dog and wrapped in a blanket "was beloved by all who knew him, and most precious to his parents and family, who had sought his health in many foreign climes. He departed this life in Rome, aged 21 years".
They fell in love with Rome
Many epitaphs are a tribute to Rome: in some cases the dead were buried in this cemetery because of their firm will and their epitaphs show their love for the city: David Tyrone Colin (left) died in Los Angeles but wanted to be buried here as he had "A love affair with Italy";
Charles de Bildt (middle), a Swedish Academist, came to Rome in 1889 and lived here until his death in 1931: his daughter, Blanciflor, married a Boncompagni Ludovisi and at her death she donated one of the family palaces to the City of Rome; Shelagh Mary Cassidy (right),
chose to dedicate to Rome her epitaph by citing Longfellow:
There is the centre to which all gravitates
One finds no rest elsewhere than here.
There may be other cities that please us for a while,
but Rome alone completely satisfies.
It becomes to all a second native land by predilection,
and not by accident of birth alone.
Monuments to Rosa Bathurst, Goethe's son and Antonio Gramsci
"I may seem unduly to refine, but the injunction to the reader in the monument to Miss Bathurst, drowned in the Tiber in 1824, "If thou art young and lovely, build not thereon, for she who lies beneath thy feet in death was the loveliest flower ever cropt in its bloom", affects us irresistibly as a case for tears on the spot. The whole elaborate inscription indeed says something over and beyond all it does say. The English have the reputation of being the most reticent people in the world, and as there is no smoke without fire I suppose they have done something to deserve it; yet who can say that one does n't constantly meet the most startling examples of the insular faculty to "gush"? In this instance the mother of the deceased takes the public into her confidence with surprising frankness and omits no detail, seizing the opportunity to mention by the way that she had already lost her husband by a most mysterious visitation. The appeal to one's attention and the confidence in it are withal most moving. The whole record has an old-fashioned gentility that makes its frankness tragic. You seem to hear the garrulity of passionate grief." (Henry James - Italian Hours)
The whole inscription reads as follows:
The death of Rosa Bathurst was recorded by Stendhal in his diary and from it we know that Rosa was riding outside
Porta del Popolo and that her body was found near Ponte Molle,
so most likely she fell in the water near Acqua Acetosa or on the other side of the river along Via Flaminia.
When Goethe imagined being buried beside the Pyramid, he did not know he had a foreknowledge that his son, born in 1789, would die in Rome in 1830 and be buried beside the Pyramid. The monument to Julius August Goethe shows how hard it is to be the son of a genius. The epitaph does not mention his first name: he is just "Goethe filius" (Goethe's son).
The cemetery is usually called Cimitero degli Inglesi, but its proper name is Cimitero Acattolico (non-Catholic), because in addition to Protestants it serves as burial ground for Greek Orthodox, Jews, Zoroastrians and atheists. The image on the right (above) shows the monument to Antonio Gramsci, one of the founders of the Italian Communist Party, deceased in 1937, after having spent many years in prison.
Cats at the Protestant Cemetery (and their website)
Other Days of Peace pages:
A Sunny Day in Villa Borghese
At the Flea Market
At the Beach
Voicing Your Views ..... and feeling better
Christmas in Rome
Celebrating the Foundation of Rome
A visit to Roseto di Roma
Running the Marathon
Watching the Parade
The procession of La Madonna de Noantri
Attending Winter Ceremonies
Rome's Sleepless Night
Attending 2007 July Events
Jogging at Valle delle Camene
Sailing on the River to see the Bridges of Roma
An October Outing to Marino
A Special Spring Weekend
Embassy-hunting in Parioli
Attending a Funeral ...and enjoying it!
Celebrating Eritrean Michaelmas in Rome
Visiting Rome at Dawn
Visiting Rome in the Moonlight
Visiting Rome on a Hop-on-Hop-off Bus
Visiting Multi-ethnic Rome
Playing in the Snow at the Janiculum
Watching the Pride Parade
Reading Memoirs of Hadrian at Villa Adriana
Visiting the Movie Sets at Cinecittą
Looking up at the Ceilings of the Vatican Palaces
Spending the Last Roman Day at St. John Lateran's Cloister
Reading Seneca at the Baths
Reading Ovid at St. Peter's
Walking the Dog at Valle della Caffarella