Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign

The Grim Reaper in Florence’s English Cemetery

After our visit to Il Cimitero degli Inglesi, I read the little booklet available from the cemetery office.  It said that many of the people buried in the “English” Cemetery were in fact Italians, who had been persecuted for their Protestant beliefs. Challenging the Pope’s authority in Italy in the 19th century had been a criminal offense, punishable by imprisonment and also refusal to be buried in sanctified ground. I wondered if the Swiss Evangelic Church had ever been allowed to bless the land of the cemetery it oversaw.

In the sea of sculpture that stood on this little island of the dead, the most amazing monument marked an Italian’s grave. A larger-than-life skeleton brandished a scythe, about to slice down a clump of stone lilies. The Reaper wore his shroud like a cloak, tossed jauntily over one shoulder. The raw bones of his shin and thigh peeped out at the bottom. A rag blindfolded his eye sockets but didn’t mask his grimacing teeth. I’d never seen anything like him. I haven’t been able to discover any information about Andrea di Mariano Casentini (1855-1870), but clearly Mama and Papa had some message to give the world when they lost their child.

In America, parents mark their children’s graves with teddy bears or toy cars.  In the 19th century, when Casentini’s monument was created, Americans chose lambs (to connotate innocence) or broken rosebuds (to symbolize lives ended too soon).  Nowhere have I seen Death, in all his glory, standing over American children.

About Loren Rhoads

I am the author of the essay collection Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel, co-author of the novel As Above, So Below, and editor of The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two. Scribner published my favorite essays from Morbid Curiosity magazine as Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues. In addition to blogging at CemeteryTravel.com, I blog about my morbid life at lorenrhoads.com.
This entry was posted in Cemetery essay, Photo Challenges and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign

  1. That statue is so unbelievably incredibly awesome! I want one on my grave! What a statement!

  2. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures | Cemetery Travel: Adventures in Graveyards Around the World

  3. Pingback: Cemetery of the Week #108: the English Cemetery | Cemetery Travel: Adventures in Graveyards Around the World

What would you like to add?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s