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Certosa di Bologna Monumental Cemetery

Area of historical interest, Bologna

Certosa di Bologna Monumental Cemetery: Attraction informations

The Monumental Cemetery of the Certosa di Bologna is one of the oldest cemeteries in Europe. It was built on the remains of a pre-existing Carthusian monastery, founded in 1334 and suppressed during Napoleon’s era in 1796. The Carthusian community who lived in this monastery had reached a high level of wealth, and the Church of San Girolamo della Certosa still stands as a testimony of their power.

San Girolamo della Certosa

The interior of the building is decorated by a beautiful series of paintings from the second part of the XVII century, all dedicated to the life of the Messiah. Among these paintings, the one by a young Elisabetta Sirani is the most peculiar and probably the most beautiful. Elisabetta, daughter of a partner of Guido Reni, started painting and proving her talent at a very young age. This specific painting was done when she was only 20 years old. Word of her talent quickly spread, and her art was widely appreciated in Bologna; her death at an early age - she was only 27 years-old - was thought to be caused by poisoning, probably by the hand of her enemies.

The foundation of the cemetery

Once the convent was suppressed, in 1801, the main cloister of the monastery started to be used as a cemetery. The sacred image of the Madonna di San Luca was hidden in its cloister during the bombings in World War II to protect it from damages, as a commemorative plaque placed on the bell tower reminds us of.

The first tombs of the Certosa cemetery were all decorated with paintings, but as time went by sculptures started to slowly take their place in the tomb’s decorations. The most famous 19th-century sculptors in Bologna have left their mark on the tombs of the most wealthy and powerful families of the city.
Nowadays it’s difficult to remember the importance of a richly decorated tomb for wealthy and powerful families; family graves represented a proper status symbol and were worth incredibly high amounts of money.

The main artists of the 19th-century worked in the cemetery, starting with the students of Canova. It is possible to follow the history of their art by the evolution of the sculptures well into the 20th-century.

Celebrity graves

Many “famous” people are buried in the Monumental Cemetery of La Certosa. For instance, here lay the remains of Marco Minghetti, Bolognese exponent of the Destra Storica and responsible for the first and last balanced budget of the Italian State. The graves of Giorgio Morandi, worldwide-known painter and Giosuè Carducci, professor of the University of Bologna and Nobel Prize in Literature, can be also visited in the cemetery.

Imposing are the monuments in remembrance of the fallen during World War I and the one for the Partisans who sacrified their lives during Bologna’s liberation.

Bolognese music is also present in the Certosa cemetery. We can visit the tomb of the renowned singer and composer Lucio Dalla and, going back in time, the one of the opera composer Ottorino Respighi, whose body was subsequently brought to Rome, where one of his most celebrated operas is set.

Literary art is present with the grave of Zanichelli, founder of the namesake publishing house. The world of engineering cannot be left-out: Maserati, Ducati and Weber all are present with the tombs of their founders.

The Monumental Cemetery of La Certosa has nothing to envy from other monumental cemeteries around the world, and it has been visited throughout the years by several illustrious visitors such as Lord Byron and Charles Dickens.