Protestant Cemetery, Rome
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The Cimitero Acattolico (Non-Catholic Cemetery) of Rome, often referred to as the Cimitero dei protestanti (Protestant Cemetery) or Cimitero Inglese (English Cemetery), is a private cemetery in the rione of Testaccio in Rome. It is near Porta San Paolo and adjacent to the Pyramid of Cestius, a small-scale Egyptian-style pyramid built between 18 and 12 BC as a tomb and later incorporated into the section of the Aurelian Walls that borders the cemetery. It has Mediterranean cypress, pomegranate and other trees, and a grassy meadow. 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 Dr Arthur, a Protestant medical doctor hailing from Edinburgh, in 1716. The English poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley are buried there.
Since the norms of the Catholic Church forbade burying on consecrated ground non-Catholics - including Protestants, Jews and Orthodox - as well as suicides and actors (these, after death, were "expelled" by the Christian community and buried outside the walls or at the extreme edge of the same). Burials occurred at night to avoid manifestations of religious fanaticism and to preserve the safety of those who participated in the funeral rites. An exception was made for Sir Walter Synod, who in 1821 managed to bury his daughter in broad daylight and, he was accompanied by a group of guards to be protected from incursions of fanatics.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the area of the non-Catholic cemetery was called "The meadows of the Roman people". It was an area of public property, where drovers used to graze the cattle, wine was kept in the cavities created in the so-called Monte dei Cocci, an artificial hill where the Romans went to have fun. The area was dominated by the Pyramid of Caius Cestius which for centuries was one of the most visited monuments of the city. It was the non-Catholics themselves who chose those places for their burials, and they were allowed by a decision of the Holy Office, which in 1671 consented that the "non-Catholic Lords" who died in the city were spared the shame of finding a burial together with prostitutes and sinners in the cemetery of the Muro Torto. The first burial of a Protestant was that of a follower of the exiled King James Stuart, named William Arthur, who died in Rome where he had come to escape the repressions following the defeats of the Jacobites in Scotland. Other burials followed, which did not concern only courtiers of King Stuart, who in the meanwhile had settled in Rome. It is said that in 1732 the treasurer of the King of England, William Ellis, was buried at the foot of the Pyramid. By that time the area had acquired the status of a cemetery of the British, although the people buried there were not only from the United Kingdom.
The cemetery developed without any official recognition and only at the end of 1700 the authorities started to take care of it. It was not until the 1920s that the government appointed a custodian to oversee the area and the cemetery functions. The public disinterest was mainly determined by the fact that in the current mentality, where the only burial conceived by the Catholics were the ones happening in a church, the availability of a cemetery that provided non-Catholic burials was not considered a privilege.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century in the cemetery area there was only holly, and there was no other natural nor artificial protection for the tombs scattered in the countryside, where cattle were grazing. The cypresses that adorn the cemetery today were planted later on. In 1824 a moat was erected that surrounded the ancient part of the cemetery. In ancient times crosses or inscriptions were forbidden, as in all non-Catholic cemeteries, at least until 1870.
As of 2011, the custody and management of the cemetery was entrusted to foreign representatives in Italy.
The great, hundred-year-old cypresses, the green meadow that surrounds part of the tombs, the white pyramid that stands behind the enclosure of Roman walls, together with the cats that walk undisturbed among the tombstones written in all the languages of the world, give to this small cemetery a peculiar aura. As in use in Anglo-Saxon cemeteries, there are no photographs on the tombstones.
The Non-catholic Cemetery of Rome is intended for the rest of all non-Catholics, without any distinction of nationality. However, there are very few illustrious Italians buried there. They were allowed a spot in this cemetery for the alternative culture and ideas expressed in life ("foreign" compared to the dominant one), for the quality of their work, or for certain circumstances of their life for which they were somehow "foreign" in their own country. Among them, the politicians Antonio Gramsci and Emilio Lussu, the writer and poet Dario Bellezza, the writers Carlo Emilio Gadda and Luce d'Eramo and a few others. Recently it is very rare that new burials are added. There is one expection; on 18 July 2019, the remains of the writer Andrea Camilleri were buried here.
Keats died in Rome of tuberculosis at the age of 25, and is buried in the cemetery. His epitaph, which does not mention him by name, is by his friends Joseph Severn and Charles Armitage Brown, and reads:
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 tombstone: Here lies one whose name was writ in water.
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Shelley drowned in 1822 in a sailing accident off the Italian Riviera. When his body washed up upon the shore, a copy of Keats's poetry borrowed from Leigh Hunt 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 traveller, "Go thou to Rome ...".
Shelley and Mary's three-year-old son William was also buried in the Protestant Cemetery.
Shelley's heart was finally buried, encased in silver, in 1889, with the son who survived him, Sir Percy Florence Shelley, 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.
- Arthur Aitken (1861–1924), British military commander
- Johan David Åkerblad (1763–1819), Swedish diplomat
- Walther Amelung (1865–1927), German classical archaeologist
- Hendrik Christian Andersen (1872–1940), sculptor, friend of Henry James
- R. M. Ballantyne (1825–1894), Scottish novelist
- Jakob Salomon Bartholdy (1779–1825), Prussian Consul General, art patron
- Rosa Bathurst (1808–1824), drowned in the River Tiber aged 16; moving monument by Richard Westmacott
- John Bell (1763–1820), Scottish surgeon and anatomist
- Dario Bellezza (1944–1996), Italian poet, author and playwright
- Karl Julius Beloch (1854–1929), German classical and economic historian
- Martin Boyd (1893–1972), Australian novelist and autobiographer
- Pietro Boyesen (1819–1882), Danish photographer
- Karl Briullov (1799–1852), Russian painter
- Giorgio Bulgari (1890–1966), Italian businessman, grandson of Sotirios Bulgari, the founder of Bulgari
- Andrea Camilleri (1925–2019), Italian novelist
- Asmus Jacob Carstens (1754–1798), Danish-German painter
- Jesse Benedict Carter (1872–1917), American Classical scholar
- Enrico Coleman (1846–1911), artist and orchid-lover
- Gregory Corso (1930–2001), American beat generation poet
- Richard Henry Dana Jr. (1815–1882), American author of Two Years Before the Mast
- Luce d'Eramo (1925–2001), Italian writer
- Frances Minto Elliot (1820–1898), English writer
- Robert K. Evans (1852–1926), United States Army Brigadier General
- Robert Finch (1783–1830), English antiquary and connoisseur of the arts
- Arnoldo Foà (1916–2014), Italian actor
- Karl Philipp Fohr (1795–1818), German painter
- Maria Pia Fusco (1939–2016), Italian screenwriter and journalist
- Carlo Emilio Gadda (1893–1973), Italian novelist
- Irene Galitzine (1916–2006) fashion designer
- John Gibson (1790–1866), Welsh sculptor, student of Canova
- August von Goethe (1789–1830), son of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; his monument features a medallion by Bertel Thorvaldsen
- Joseph Gott (1785–1860), British sculptor, son of Benjamin Gott
- Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937), Italian philosopher, leader of the Italian Communist Party
- Richard Saltonstall Greenough (1819–1904), American sculptor
- Augustus William Hare (1792–1834), English author
- William Stanley Haseltine (1835–1900), American painter and draftsman
- Johannes Carsten Hauch (1790–1872), Danish poet
- William H. Herriman (1829–1918), American art collector
- Ursula Hirschmann (1913–1991), German anti-fascist activist and an advocate of European federalism
- Wilhelm von Humboldt (1794–1803), son of the German diplomat and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt
- Vyacheslav Ivanov (1866–1949), Russian poet, philosopher, and classical scholar
- Chauncey Ives (1810–1894), American sculptor
- Gualtiero Jacopetti (1919–2011), Italian director of documentary films
- Dobroslav Jevđević (1895–1962), Serbian World War II commander
- John Keats (1795–1821), English poet
- Lindsay Kemp (1938–2018), British dancer, actor, teacher, mime artist, and choreographer
- August Kestner (1777–1853), German diplomat and art collector
- Adolf Klügmann (1837–1880), German classical archaeologist and numismatist
- Richard Krautheimer (1897–1994), German art and architectural historian
- Antonio Labriola (1843–1904), Italian Marxist theoretician
- Belinda Lee (1935–1961), British actress
- James MacDonald, 8th baronet of Sleat (1741–1766), Scottish baronet and scholar; his tombstone was designed by G.B. Piranesi
- Hans von Marées (1837–1887), German painter
- George Perkins Marsh (1801–1882), American Minister to Italy 1861–1882, author of Man and Nature
- Richard Mason (1919–1997), British author of The World of Suzy Wong
- Malwida von Meysenbug (1816–1903), German author
- Peter Andreas Munch (1810–1863) Norwegian historian
- Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro (1819–1885), British classical scholar
- Ernest Nash (1898–1974), German-American scholar, archaeological photographer
- E. Herbert Norman (1909–1957), Canadian diplomat and historian
- Dora Ohlfsen-Bagge (1869–1948), Australian sculptor, and her partner, Hélène de Kuegelgen (died 1948)
- D'Arcy Osborne, 12th Duke of Leeds (1884–1964), British diplomat and last Duke of Leeds
- Thomas Jefferson Page (1808–1899), commander of United States Navy expeditions exploring the Río de la Plata
- Pier Pander (1864–1919), Dutch sculptor
- Milena Pavlović-Barili (1909–1945), Serbian-Italian artist
- John Piccoli (1939–1955), son of American artists Juanita and Girolamo (Nemo) Piccoli of Anticoli Corrado
- Bruno Pontecorvo (1913–1993), Italian nuclear physicist
- G. Frederick Reinhardt (1911–1971), U.S. Ambassador to Italy, 1961–1968; administrator of this cemetery, 1961–1968
- Heinrich Reinhold (1788–1825), German painter, draughtsman, engraver; his tombstone features a medallion by Bertel Thorvaldsen
- Sarah Parker Remond (1826–1894), African American abolitionist and physician
- August Riedel (1799–1883) German artist
- Amelia Rosselli (1930–1996), Italian poet
- Gottfried Semper (1803–1879), German architect
- Joseph Severn (1793–1879), English painter, consul in Rome, and friend of John Keats, beside whom he is buried
- Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822), English poet
- Franklin Simmons (1839–1913), American sculptor and painter
- William Wetmore Story (1819–1895), American sculptor, buried beside his wife, Emelyn Story, under his own Angel of Grief
- Niklāvs Strunke (1894–1966), Latvian painter
- Pavel Svedomsky (1849–1904), Russian painter
- John Addington Symonds (1840–1893), English poet and critic
- Manfredo Tafuri (1935–1994), Italian architectural historian
- Tatiana Tolstaya (1864–1950), Russian painter and memoirist and daughter of Leo Tolstoy and Sophia Tolstaya
- Edward John Trelawny (1792–1881), English author, friend of Percy Bysshe Shelley, beside whose ashes he is buried
- Elihu Vedder (1836–1923), American painter, sculptor, graphic artist
- Shefqet Vërlaci (1877–1946), Prime Minister of Albania
- Wilhelm Friedrich Waiblinger (1804–1830), German poet and biographer of Friedrich Hölderlin
- J. Rodolfo Wilcock (1919–1978), Argentine writer, poet, critic and translator
- Friedrich Adolf Freiherr von Willisen (1798–1864), Prussian General and Ambassador to the Holy See
- Constance Fenimore Woolson (1840–1894), American novelist and short story writer, friend of Henry James
- Richard James Wyatt (1795–1860), English sculptor
- Helen Zelezny-Scholz (1882–1974), Czech-born sculptor and architectural sculptor
- Il cimitero acattolico di Roma - Guida per i visitatori. Rome. 1956.
- "Amici del Cimitero Acattolico di Roma" (PDF). cemeteryrome.it.
- Menniti Ippolito, Antonio (2014). Il Cimitero acattolico di Roma. La presenza protestante nella città del papa. Rome: Viella.
- Or, some have suggested, his liver. See "Possibly Not Shelley's Heart?", The New York Times, 28 June 1885.
- Lexa Selph, "Shelley's Heart", Letter to the Editor, The New York Times, 8 June 1985.
- Bandettini, Anna (14 December 2016). "Morta Maria Pia Fusco, una vita di passione per il cinema". Repubblica.it (in Italian). Retrieved 28 February 2019.
- 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
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Protestant Cemetery, Rome.|
- On-line database of tombs and deceased
- Cemetery website (in Italian and English)
- The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction Volume 10, No. 285, 1 December 1827, Project Gutenberg E-text contains an article entitled "Protestant Burial-Ground at Rome"
- The Keats-Shelley House in Rome
- GPS coordinates you need to use to find the graves of famous people in the Non-Catholic Cemetery
- Elisabeth Rosenthal. "A Cemetery of Poets Is in Crisis in Rome", International Herald Tribune, 8 February 2006