Monday, June 18, 2012

A Brush With Immortality . . .

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On the way back home toward France from central Italy this past weekend, we had planned in advance to spend one night in Genoa, so as not to have too long a drive at one go. To my shame, I admit, I had not given much thought to the overnight stay in that ancient city, other than to reserve a hotel for the night not far from the port and the old city center. It was only when we got there fairly late in the evening on Saturday that I took the time to peruse the guidebook a little more closely to see if there might be something of interest to visit on Sunday morning before heading back into France. So it was with considerable amazement and surprise that I discovered a paragraph in the book about one of the largest and most distinguished cemeteries in all of Europe, the Staglieno Monumental Cemetery, situated right on the outskirts of Genoa. After reading the glowing description in the guidebook of the 160 hectare (395 acres) site of the Staglieno Cemetery, there was no question about where we were heading on Sunday morning.
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And all I can say is, if you are ever in Genoa for any reason, do not miss this cemetery ! It is simply stunning. Out of this world. If you want a little bit of an idea, just go to Google and peruse the images section for Staglieno Cemetery. There are hundreds and hundreds of images already on line. This may be one of the most memorable and astonishing cemeteries in the world for the quality and quantity of the incredible artwork contained within. Writers like Mark Twain and Evelyn Waugh devoted their attention to this unforgettable graveyard. Evelyn Waugh went so far as to say that "If Pere Lachaise and the Albert Memorial were obliterated, the loss would be negligible as long as this great repository survived".
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Without further ado I will let you contemplate my humble contribution below to the already massive number of photographs of the Staglieno Cimeterio on the web. I only wish I had weeks to spend in further exploration of this extraordinary museum of funerary art. I have never seen anything like it, even in Pere Lachaise in Paris, which by comparison is only 43 hectares (106 acres) of land. Everywhere one looks in this mind boggling site one encounters works of art of the highest quality. And the organisation of the place is phenomenal as well, there is a bus service internal to the cemetery to shuttle people around, and as can be seen in one of the below photos there are public urinals for the male visitors, which left me wondering what the female visitors in need were supposed to do... I just hope that one day some effort will be made to give all of the statuary a serious cleaning. It looks as though nothing has been cleaned in the last 160 years or so since the cemetery opened. There are heavy layers of grime on every possible surface. But that does not prevent the underlying beauty from radiating brightly.
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11 comments:

louciao said...

I suppose this means another 30 gigs of photo files have been added to your already staggering collection from this trip? Thank goodness you were properly dressed, in spite of being unprepared. But you say Genoa is within comfortable driving distance of home...so...perhaps La Grenouille will be in for a few "romantic" weekend getaways.

The Pliers said...

Now, if they would only prohibit indecently dressed people from attending funerals...

Congratulations on your inadvertent discovery of a major last resting place! That was a nice surprise, no doubt, in the midst of your Italian sojourn.

martinealison said...

Un très joli reportage photographique... Il est bon aussi de visiter ceux qui font qu'aujourd'hui nous sommes là... Ne les oublions pas.
Gros bisous à vous.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Owen for taking us along

this tour of such stunning place.

I love those old portraits so much!

Altri tempi...

Maria O. Russell

Steve said...

Beautiful, moving and so humane.

Catherine said...

Wow what an amazing sequence - genoa has been on my list for a while as it is so close to nice - next year for sure

James said...

What an amazing find! I'm trying to wrap my mind around it. WOW!

Stickup Artist said...

As James said, what a find! I'm hard pressed to pick a favorite, there is so much to love. I really love the twined branches in front of the mustachioed gent, sun dappling his image. I find that one particularly poetic and lyrical. Then, I love the pink hued one of the young woman and all the subtle tone and textures. It's all very sad and beautiful at the same time. But, they were all loved, no doubt about it. One can tell by these tributes. And I take some consolation in that...

Peter Olson said...

For a taphophile like me, this seems to be must-place! ... and I learnt that if Oscar Wilde is at Père Lachaise, his wife (yes he had a wife), is buried at Staglieno!

Oakland Daily Photo said...

The vine growing over the cemetery portrait made me feel so sad. Nature will always win out; but it felt like the ultimate obliteration beyond death.

Nathalie said...

L'urinoir au milieu de cette collection m'a fait rire !
Mais sinon je dois dire que cette collection de visages est très émouvante. Qu'ont-ils de différent de nous, ces gens qui ont été vivants avant nous et qui ne sont plus ? Le mystère de la vie est insondable...