Dying to Get In

Cities of the Dead: Michael Nejman's Top 12 Cemeteries of the World

  1. The Cemetery of the Capuchin Fathers in the Church of the Immaculate Conception (Rome, Italy). Rome's most macabre site! In the church basement, the preserved remains of 4,000 Capuchin friars are on display. These remains have been sculpted into a gruesome, monumental "work of art," with the skulls and bones being used for alters, chandeliers, and ornamental wall designs. It is said that the "artist's" intention was not to scare or disturb visitors, but rather to inspire prayer and meditation. Is the Addams Family looking for a new interior decorator? Click Here for Dramatic Image
  2. Pere-Lachaise (Paris, France). This is arguably the most hauntingly romantic and intriguingly beautiful cemetery in the world. It's the largest and most prestigious graveyard in Paris; the final resting place for Edith Piaf, Chopin, Moliere, Oscar Wilde, Balzac, and controversial permanent tenant, Doors singer Jim Morrison. Pere-Lachaise features cobble-stoned paths lined with chestnut and sycamore trees, an appealing variety of sepulchral art, and lush vegetation. I LOVE this cemetery!!
  3. Les Catacombes (Paris, France).  Not the sublime combination of the macabre and art the Cemetery of the Capuchin Fathers (Rome) is, but the sheer number of skeletons (millions!) is undeniably impressive!
  4. TIE :The Pyramids at Giza (Cairo, Egypt). Towering tombs! The world's most famous funerary complex. From a time when people really knew how to bury their dead in style! and  "City of the Dead" (Old Cairo, Egypt). This necropolis of miles and miles of ancient mausoleums now houses hundreds and hundreds of Cairo's homeless.
  5. Lenin's Mausoleum (Red Square, Moscow, Russia). Not technically a cemetery, although there are nearby graves of former Soviet leaders and American writer John Reed, but none-the-less, the eeriest tribute I've ever seen. Vladimir Lenin died in 1924 and his body is still on display (the Russians should really cut back on the preservatives in their foods!). Is it a wax replica or the real thing? He looked quite fossilized to me.
  6. Forest Lawn (Glendale, California, USA). Horizontal Hollywood Squares! A celebfest with more television and movie stars buried per acre than any other cemetery in the world.
  7. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 (New Orleans, Louisiana, USA). There are 31 graveyards in N'awleans, but this is the finest of them all. The above ground tombs, with their wrought iron fences, make this necropolis look, quite literally, like a "City of the Dead." Residents include voodoo queens and cajun kings!
  8. King's Chapel and Burying Grounds (Boston, Massachusetts, USA). For my money, the most dramatic, symbolic American funerary art is found in this small, yet impressive, cemetery (founded 1686).
  9. TIE: Graceland Cemetery (Chicago, Illinois, USA) and Highgate Cemetery (London, England). Graceland is a must-see for the architectural variety of its monuments. Highgate has ambience, over-grown vegetation and Karl Marx.
  10. Fairview Lawn Cemetery (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada). This was the final destination for 121 victims of the Titanic and its the resting place for the unidentified dead of The Great Halifax Disaster of 1917 (the biggest man-made explosion before the nuclear age!). It's unbelievable that this quiet maritime community dealt with two major disasters within five years of each other.

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