English Cemetery, Florence

The English Cemetery is in Piazzale Donatello, Florence, Italy.

History

In 1827 the Swiss Evangelical Reformed Church purchased land outside the medieval wall and gate of Porta a' Pinti from Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany for an international and ecumenical cemetery, Russian and Greek Orthodox burials joining the Protestant ones. Prior to that date non-Catholics and non-Jews who died in Florence could only be buried in Livorno. Carlo Reishammer, as a young architectural student, first landscaped the Swiss-owned, so-called 'English' Cemetery, then Giuseppe Poggi shaped it as its present oval when Florence became capital of Italy, surrounding it with great studios for artists, including that of Michele Gordigiani, who painted the portraits of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, now in the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Burials

Among the many Swiss, Russians, Americans and English buried here, the English graves are of the majority as their community in Florence in the nineteenth century was the largest.

Many famous people are buried in the graveyard: Elizabeth Barrett Browning (in a tomb designed by Frederic, Lord Leighton), Walter Savage Landor, Arthur Hugh Clough, Fanny Trollope and her daughter-in-law Theodosia Garrow Trollope and three other family members, Isa Blagden, Southwood Smith, Hiram Powers, Joel Tanner Hart, Theodore Parker, Fanny, the wife of William Holman Hunt in a tomb he himself sculpted, Mary, the daughter of John Roddam Spencer Stanhope in a tomb he himself sculpted, Louise, sister to Henry Adams, whose dying he describes in his 'Chaos' chapter in "The Education of Henry Adams", two children of the Greek painter George Mignaty, whom Robert had paint Casa Guidi as it was when Elizabeth Barrett Browning died there, and Nadezhda De Santis, a black Nubian slave brought to Florence at fourteen from Jean-François Champollion's 1827 expedition to Egypt and Nubia, while the French Royalist exile Félicie de Fauveau sculpted two tombs here.
Beatrice Shakespeare and Edward Claude Shakespeare Clench last descendants of William Shakespeare.

Giampietro Vieusseux, Swiss, the founder of the Gabinetto Vieusseux of which John Ruskin, Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, and Robert Browning were readers, is also buried here and likewise the Swiss historian Jacques Augustin Galiffe, who with Jean Charles Léonard Simonde de Sismondi pioneered genealogical, archival research. Emily Dickinson treasured a photograph of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's tomb and wrote 'The soul selects her own society' about it, using lines also from EBB's "Aurora Leigh". While Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a sonnet on Hiram Powers' sculpture "The Greek Slave", which had been at the center of the Crystal Palace Exhibition. Isa Blagden and Theodosia Garrett Trollope, part East Indian, part Jewish, are models for Miriam in Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Marble Faun", while George Mignaty's wife is model for the head of Hiram Powers' "Greek Slave". The cemetery is famous, too, as the partial subject of Arnold Boecklin's Island of the Dead, from its burial of his seven-month daughter, Mary. In turn, the composer Sergei Rachmaninoff made use of the painting for his Op. 29, "The Isle of the Dead". The cemetery itself is a kind of encyclopedia memorializing the creativity of western culture, from America to Russia, from Scandinavia to Nubia, during Italy's Risorgimento.

Inscriptions

The tomb inscriptions are in Hebrew, Greek, Cyrillic, "fraktura" and Roman scripts, and in many languages: Hebrew, Russian, French, German, Danish, Romansh, English, including passages of the Bible in their vernaculars, at that period forbidden to Catholics.

Closure

In 1877, the Cemetery had to be closed, the medieval wall having been torn down at the time of the Risorgimento when Florence became capital of Italy, with Code Napoleon, from Roman law, forbidding burials within city limits. At the present day ashes may be interred. Currently, research is being carried out on the burial records in England, Russia and Italy, these being published on the web. The library in the cemetery seeks books written by and about those buried here, and an emergency appeal is under way to restore the 'English' Cemetery in Florence after 125 years of neglect and abandonment to its former beauty described in Victorian era guidebooks and seen in early sepia photographs, particularly those taken by Hiram Powers' son, Longworth Powers, now in the Gabinetto Vieusseux.

ee also

* Poets' Graves

External links

* [http://www.florin.ms/cemetery1.html Catalogue of Tombs in Cemetery]


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