The Certosa di Bologna, an open-air museum

Certosa, Retour d’Egypte style grave, Bologna

Throughout Italy, if someone mentions a Certosa, a monastery comes naturally to mind – but not in Bologna! The Certosa di Bologna is its Monumental Cemetery, a real open-air museum. With the introduction of the Napoleonic Edict of Saint-Cloud, in all of Europe burials were prohibited within city walls. In Bologna, the choice of a suitable site fell on the seat of the newly suppressed Order of Carthusian Monks, which with its ring of cloisters was an ideal place. The first illustrious tombs were simply painted in trompe-l’œil with mock telamons, because the families only considered them temporary burials, in anticipation of a return to traditional burials in family chapels. However, the years passed, and the realization of important tombs increased.

Monumental Cemetery of the Certosa di Bologna

Little by little, it became a place to stroll around on Sundays to discover the latest artistic trends, and an essential destination for visitors such as Lord Byron and Charles Dickens, transforming itself into the extraordinary repertoire of funerary art that we can still admire today. It goes from tombs of the early 19th century, almost devoid of religious symbols, to eccentric tombs in Retour d’Egypte style, to Art Nouveau, up to 20th-century Rationalism with the colossal Monument to the Fallen Soldiers of World War I. When I visited the Certosa for the first time, I was amazed by the beauty and peace that this place manages to instill. I recommend a visit at sunset, when the warm light of the sun and the first thickening of shadows animate the senses and the mind.

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BolognaEmilia-RomagnaLand Art and monuments