Protestant Cemetery, Rome

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Coordinates: 41°52′35″N 12°28′48″E / 41.876399°N 12.479943°E / 41.876399; 12.479943

Protestant Cemetery
Crane Protestant Cemetery.jpg
Gravestone of English Poet John Keats in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, an 1873 painting by Walter Crane.
Established 1738
Location Rome
Country Italy
Type Public
Style 18th–19th century European
Devereux Plantagenet Cockburn, † 1850, monument by Benjamin Edward Spence

The Protestant Cemetery (Italian: Cimitero protestante) now officially called the Cimitero acattolico ("Non-Catholic Cemetery")[1] and often referred to as the Cimitero degli Inglesi ("Englishmen's Cemetery") is a cemetery in Rome, located near Porta San Paolo alongside the Pyramid of Cestius, a small-scale Egyptian-style pyramid built in 30 BC as a tomb and later incorporated into the section of the Aurelian Walls that borders the cemetery. The presence of Mediterranean cypress, pomegranate, and other trees, and a grassy meadow suggests the more naturalistic landscape style of northern Europe, where cemeteries sometimes incorporate grass and other greenery. As the official name indicates, it is the final resting place of non-Catholics including but not exclusive to Protestants or British people.


The earliest known burial is that of a University of Oxford student named Langton in 1738. The most famous graves are those of English poets John Keats (1795–1821) and Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822). Keats died in Rome of tuberculosis at the age of 25. His epitaph, which does not mention him by name, is by his friends Joseph Severn and Charles Armitage Brown: "This grave contains all that was mortal, of a YOUNG ENGLISH POET, Who on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his Heart, at the Malicious Power of his Enemies, Desired these Words to be engraven on his Tomb Stone: Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water."

Shelley, who did not know how to swim, drowned in 1822 while sailing in his yacht off the Italian Riviera. When his body washed up upon the shore, a copy of Keats' poetry was discovered in his pocket - doubled back - as though it had been put away in a hurry. He was cremated on the beach near Viareggio by his friends, the poet Lord Byron and the English adventurer Edward John Trelawny. His ashes were sent to the British consulate in Rome, who had them interred in the Protestant Cemetery some months later.

Shelley's heart supposedly survived cremation and was snatched out of the flames by Trelawny, who subsequently gave it to Shelley's widow, Mary. When Mary Shelley died, the heart was found in her desk wrapped in the manuscript of "Adonais," the elegy Shelley had written the year before upon the death of Keats, in which the poet urges the traveler, "Go thou to Rome ...

... From the world's bitter wind
Seek shelter in the shadow of the tomb.
What Adonais is, why fear we to become?

The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven's light forever shines, Earth's shadows fly;
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity,
Until Death tramples it to fragments.—Die,
If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!
Follow where all is fled! — Rome's azure sky,
Flowers, ruins, statues, music, words, are weak
The glory they transfuse with fitting truth to speak.

Shelley and Mary's three-year-old son William was also buried in the Protestant Cemetery.

Shelley's heart[2] was finally buried, encased in silver, in 1889, with the son who survived him, Sir Percy Florence Shelley,[3] but his gravestone in the Protestant Cemetery is inscribed: Cor cordium ("heart of hearts"), followed by a quotation from Shakespeare's The Tempest:

Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea change.
Into something rich and strange.

Notable burials[edit]

Story's Angel of Grief.


Further reading[edit]

  • Stanley-Price, Nicholas (2014). The Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome: its history, its people and its survival for 300 years. Rome: Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome. ISBN 978-88-909168-0-9. 
  • Antonio Menniti Ippolito, Il Cimitero acattolico di Roma. la presenza protestante nella città del papa, Roma, Viella, 2014, ISBN 978-88-6728-114-5

External links[edit]