Staglieno Cimitero Monumentale
by Santo Varni
Vincenzo picked me up that day, from near the Aquarium, and we drove over the hills to the Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno. On the way, we were realizing that it was getting late in the day, and they might close, before we got there! In fact, when we arrived, the gentlemen said they were closing, but then Vincenzo explained that his friend was there from America, and that she really wanted to see it … Well, that changed things.
It's funny, there is a reputation for the Genovese not being very excited about tourists, but every time someone found out I was visiting, they were very proud and excited to show off their amazing heritage and culture. Really, I had an amazing experience there, even when I wasn't with Vincenzo.
A little mood music ...
Anyway, the man at the gate said we could go in for a half hour. This was kind of crazy because the Cemetery is enormous, but we were grateful. I could have spent hours on end, exploring, taking photos and just taking in the incredible sculptures and mausoleums.
The original part of the cemetery was designed by Carlo Barabino (1768-1835) around 1835. Barabino was responsible for the neoclassical influence, unfortunately he died the same year that the project was approved, because of an outbreak of cholera. His assistant, Giovanni Basttista Resasco, took over when Barabino passed away.
The cemetery officially opened in January 1851. Most of the large crypts and mausoleums were done from then, until second world war. You can see that most are very dusty and need a little care and restoration, but the government doesn't have the funds, and many of the ancestors have died out, or moved from the area. There are some volunteers, but it's an enormous job.
According to Wikipedia, the size of the cemetery is now 250 acres, with sculptures ranging from neo-classicism and realism, to Art Deco, Nouveau and Symbolism. Some websites say it's the largest outdoor monumental cemetery, in Europe.
Grave of Caterina Campodonico
Carved by Lorenzo Orengo
This is a popular grave, because Caterina was a nut seller, who saved every bit of money she could, in order to have this tomb in Staglieno. You can see, she was sculpted with a long string of walnuts.
Mark Twain visited Staglieno, while he was in Genoa, and wrote:
"... We shall continue to remember it after we shall have forgotten the palaces. It is a vast marble collonaded corridor extending around a great unoccupied square of ground; its broad floor is marble, and on every slab is an inscription—for every slab covers a corpse. 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, every feature guiltless of mutilation, flaw, or blemish; and therefore, to us these far-reaching ranks of bewitching forms are a hundred fold more lovely than the damaged and dingy statuary they have saved from the wreck of ancient art and set up in the galleries of Paris for the worship of the world."
In the process of letting go
you will lose many things from the past,
but you will find yourself.
It will be a permanent Self,
rooted in awareness and creativity.
Once you have captured this,
you have captured the world.
Holding on is believing
that there's only a past;
is knowing that there's a future.
~Daphne Rose Kingma
Right in the difficult
we must have our joys,
there against the depth of this background,
they stand out,
there for the first time we see
how beautiful they are.
~Rainer Maria Rilke
We need to learn to love the flawed,
imperfect things that we create,
and to forgive ourselves for creating them.
Regret doesn't remind us that we did badly,
it reminds us that we know we could do better.
Death and the Maiden
(At this point it was getting dark, so it was getting rather eerie in the cemetery.)
Without freedom from the past,
there is no freedom at all …
I use memories
but I will not allow memories to use me.
I do not understand the mystery of grace-
only that it meets us where we are
but does not leave us where it found us.
While we were in there only a short time, and saw but a small portion of it, I was so grateful we made it there.
However, that short time was longer than the 1/2 hour that the gentlemen had given us, and we got locked in the cemetery! The huge gates were padlocked! My heart started to race a little, until we found the man with the key!
I hope some day to return, and spend few hours there (at least!) exploring all the areas I didn't get a chance to see, but as I said, I am so grateful that man let us in, and that we got a chance to walk around and see what we did.
We also started singing, in low voices, at one point. Beyonce, was somehow stuck in Vincenzo's head. "To the left, to the left … everything you own, in the box to the left." Kind of appropriate for a cemetery, eh?
For the Staglieno website, click here.
For more of the history of Staglieno, here is the translated link (not the best translation but at least you can get more info) click here.
For more Links, and the American Friends of Italian Monumental Sculpture site, click here.
There are a lot video slideshows on youtube, of Staglieno, if you want to see more of the sculptures, in areas I didn't make it to. Here is one of them, that I ran across.
Open daily from 7:30am to 5:00pm.
Hope you all have an amazing and safe New Years Eve!
May your coming year be filled with magic
and dreams and good madness.
I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone
who thinks you're wonderful,
and don't forget to make some art-
write or draw or build or sings
or live as only you can.
And I hope, somewhere in the next year,
you surprise yourself.
Big blessings and much light!!!