Dying to Get In
Cities of the Dead: Michael
Nejman's Top 12 Cemeteries of the World
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- 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
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- 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!!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.