The Monumental Cemetery of Milan, famous for its sculptures and architectures, could be defined a Museum in the Open Air.
Inaugurated in 1866, only 5 years after the reunification of Italy, in a very particular moment of our history, when the “Cult of Memory” and mourning customs flourished all over Europe – such as the habit of wearing a mourning dress, the proper display of grief and bereavement for the deceased, the expression of sentimentality and self-pity, the ritual of bringing flowers to the tomb of the dead person, just think about the many poems written on this subject – hence its importance.
Covering a surface of 250.000 sqm and with about 250.000 tombs, its the second cemetery of the city for extension.
It was planned by Carlo Maciachini (1818–1899) and for sure it was his most important project, that made him famous. At those time Milan needed a proper cemetery, in a single place, since there were a number of them scattered around the city, but they were very different, i.e. enclosed in a limited area by a wooden fence, with no proper tombs, the names of the buried people were listed on a stone at the entrance, so the citizens didn’t even know where their beloved or dear ones were.
The project of Maciachini was chosen thanks to its modular design, i.e. the area was split into smaller parcels, that could be filled in independently, thus giving the chance to use it in a quick time and to spare money, since it didn’t have necessarily to be completed.
Maciachini was a master of the so-called Eclectic Style, i.e. the imitation of different styles of the past, so the architecture is featured by the combination of elements taken from the Romanic, as well as the Gothic and the Byzantine style.
At the entrance, a majestic one that reminds the impressive courtyards of the royal residences, the visitor is welcomed by the “Famedio“, a neologism that stands for the Temple of Fame, a massive Pantheon, that houses the tombs of some important Milanese such as the novelist Alessandro Manzoni, as well as the busts and names of some of the city’s most honored citizens, like Giuseppe Verdi.
Beyond the entrance, the first area of the Cemetery opens with imposing monuments, great works of art made by the best sculptors of the time, such as Giannino Castiglioni, Enrico Butti, Ernesto Bazzaro, and many others.
From a semi-circle, in the middle of which stands a Memorial made by the BBPR architects and dedicated to Milanese citizens who lost their life in the Nazi Concentration Camps, starts a kind of boulevard that splits up the area into two parts, the right and the left one, each subdivided according to the modular design planned by Maciachini. Along it, the visitors will be fascinated by the many aedicules of the rich families who wanted to have a pole position as well as by the sculptures and decorations of each funerary monument.
The Cemetery has also two special sections, one for the non-Catholic citizens, on the left side, and one for the Jewish, on the right side.
Nonetheless, a visit to the Monumental Cemetery is not only an occasion to admire beautiful sculptures and architectures, revising their history, learning their features as well as the names of the most renowned artists, but its also a journey in the history of Milan, the chance to know its most famous families, and to delve into its social life and habits.
Until some time ago, each wealthy Milanese family to be really acknowledged as such, needed to have a seat in the Duomo Cathedral, a box at the Scala Opera House and a tomb at the Monumental Cemetery.
Eager to know more? Come and join us in one of our guided tours!