The Halloween season brings with it many types of spooky scenarios; none is more relevant than a cemetery. Setting aside the scary connotation and it is easy to spot folklore, stunning architecture, cultural significance, and hidden green spaces. In an ode to the deceased, you can find highly personalized ornate-designed headstones. Just in time for Halloween, we will visit sixteen cemeteries around the world that boast intriguing histories and must-see architecture.
1. Highgate Cemetery, London-Final resting place of Karl Marx and George Michael is visited often by the public. Guided tours of the West Cemetery take you to mausoleums
and the Terrace Catacombs. Talks by authors about history, art, and Victorian topics are hosted often and published on the cemetery’s website.
2. Unitarian Church in Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina-Draped with wildflowers, Spanish moss, camellias, and crepe myrtles this Gothic Revival structure dates to 1787. It is a National Historic Landmark. The sanctuary features a fan-vaulted ceiling and hand-painted glass windows.
3. Green Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY-Set on 478 acres in Brooklyn, this cemetery features a number of architectural landmarks, including Gothic Revival gates built during the Civil War. The cemetery is filled with famous residents among them Louis Comfort Tiffany and Leonard Bernstein.
4. St. Louis No 1, New Orleans-New Orleans is best known for its cemeteries filled with ornate tombs ad wall vaults. The oldest is St. Louis 1, founded in the late 1700s, and is the burial site of many prominent families.
5. Church of Saint Mary’s, Whitby, England- this proper old abbey in Yorkshire was established in the early 12th century with a humble cluster of headstones. Millennia-old remains were found emerging from the eroding cliff face. The cemetery was used as a backdrop for Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula.
6. Pere Lachaise, Paris- Paris’s largest and most visited cemetery. With sprawling grounds and contemplative paths, it draws the attention of curious and pioneering spirits. Its daring garden-like design was used as the blueprint for a new urban staple-the public cemetery.
7. City of the Dead, Dargahs, Russia-The ghost village of Dargahs sprouts from the base of a North Ossetian mountain like something out of a fairy tale. Wildflowers bloom alongside the paths that weave through the squat white buildings topped with charming, shingled roofs. But the closer one peers inside these abodes, the clearer it becomes the grim reality of this “town,” which dates to the 16th century—the buildings are actually crypts.
8. Pantheon Antiguo (Old Cemetery), Santa Cruz Xocoatl, Mexico- Every year on October 31, the haphazard byways of the 17th-century cemetery become one of the busiest neighborhoods in Mexico. Surrounded by the crumbling churchyard walls, the families and friends of the deceased begin preparations to break bread with the spirits of their forebearers. For the residents of Santa Cruz Xocoatl, walking among the dead is not a novelty but a tradition.
9. South Park Street Cemetery, Kolkata, India-lovely flora twines around Ionic columns and domed roofs in an unexpected juxtaposition. The Gothic architecture is peppered with Indo-Saracenic motifs and is a quiet reminder of some of the country’s earliest European colonizers, who established the cemetery in the late 18th century. Some of the challenges that the British faced in India were tropical disease and the necessity for hygienic burial. Though
simple stone tombs may have sufficed, but the colonizers opted for more elaborate structures.
10. LaPaz Cemetery, La Paz, Bolivia- In this town, established in the 16th century, burial is not the final farewell. Instead, the dead book a date with their living relatives ten years into their interment. At this point, their remains are exhumed, cremated, and put on display behind glass panels in the cemetery’s walls. Families commission plaques and flowers to decorate these niches for their loved ones and they make sure their ancestors are not outdone by their neighbors.
11. Ononin Cemetery, Koyasan, Japan- Established in the ninth century this cemetery is best visited at night when the stone lanterns and looming cedar trunks flanking the pathway make the site feel like another realm. Kobo-Daishi, the founder of Shingo Buddhism is believed to lie in eternal meditation at the heart of this site. Small statues of Jizo Bodhisattva are said to bring protection and guidance for loved ones crossing over.
12. La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina-established in 1822 is a veritable city of the dead within the city. La Recoleta’s multiform crypts create a space of contemplation. Architectural homages range from standard gothic fare up through the crisp lines of the Art Deco movement and are not afraid to veer off as far as ancient Babylon. The most famous of the Argentine elite is the permanent resident of Evita herself—Eva Perón.
13. Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D.C.- Established in 1864 this modern-day arboretum was built on the estate belonging to Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s wife. It has become the final resting place for many of the nation’s servicemembers, along with such noteworthy American figures as President John F. Kennedy. Pausing to watch the hourly changing of the honor guard over tombs dedicated to unknown soldiers is an integral part of any visit.
14. Waverly Cemetery, Bronte, Australia-When the cemetery was established in 1877, the garden movement in Europe had set the new standard for a desirable burial in the Western world. Angels alighting on white plinths along the cliffside herald breathtaking grounds. This twenty-two acre of land was acquired by private fundraising.
15. Merry Cemetery, Sapanta, Romania-The residents of this rural village began hand-carving headstones in the wake of World War I and have continued the tradition ever since. Headstones in the cemetery are adorned with poems and illustrations of the deceased.
16. Hope Cemetery, Barre, Vermont-this spot is dubbed the granite capital of the world because of its gravestones. All are carved from granite stone. There is no single theme here, instead, it’s an eclectic mix of fine sculpture, whimsical depictions, and carvings linked to hobbies.
A visit to any of the above-mentioned cemeteries will surely put you into the Halloween spirit. Apparently, many crypts and grave markings are created by talented sculptors. Most notable cemeteries contain architectural interests within their gates. Scarano Architects, PLLC cannot help you select a headstone, but we can appreciate the architecture of the many fine cemeteries in the world.