recently restored "ex-English cemetery" —as it is
called in Naples— has become a small but welcome green
oasis, a public park, in the midst of a densely
populated part of the city. The park/cemetery is
contained within the high walls adjacent to the church
of Santa Maria della Fede about halfway
between Piazza Garibaldi and Piazza Carlo III, just off
the main north-south street, Corso Garibaldi, that
connects those two squares.
term "English cemetery" might suggest that perhaps this
land had something to do with WWII and the presence of a
number of military cemeteries in southern Italy. Not so.
Nor has it to do even with the much earlier wars of
Italian unification and Giuseppe Garibaldi, who gave
other land in Naples in 1861 to the British community
for the construction of Christ
Church, the house of worship over on the other
side of the city in the Chiaia section. In 1826, the
British Consul, Sir Henry Lushington bought land within
the gardens of the church of Santa Maria
della Fede for a Protestant cemetery. In those
days, the old wall of the city, though not exactly
intact, still formed the eastern boundary of the city,
and the church was outside that wall. There was, of
course, not yet a train station, and the waves of
building, rebuilding and overbuilding that would engulf
the eastern part of Naples were still many decades in
the future. The cemetery became the final resting place
for a number of people in the foreign community in the
Naples of the mid-1800s, such as Dutch painter Anton
Smink Pitloo (founder of the so-called "Posillipo
School" of landscape painting), Scottish science writer,
Mary Somerville, German botanist, Friedrich Dehnhardt,
and Lady Elizabeth Craven.
The grounds comprise the church
of Santa Maria della Fede, an adjacent monastery
and garden that is still the site of a number of
monument tombs, although "mortal remains" have been
disinterred and moved to the main cemetery of Naples.
The monument shown here is of Mary Somerville, English
scientist.The church, itself, is on the site of an
earlier, smaller one and was expanded in the mid-1600s.
In its long history, the complex has been a monastery
for Jesuits and then, under
the reign of Charles III
(the mid-1700s), a convent. Under the brief French rule (1806-1814), it was
used to store grain. The church and monastery were under
the auspices of the nearby Albergo dei Poveri
(the Hospice for the Poor) through the early and mid-18th-century,
during which time the monastery served as a
hospital/laboratory for the treatment of syphilis, a
particular scourge of that particular section of Naples
at the time. Within the
church there is significant art work by Agnese La
Corcia, a woman painter from the 1700s.
1980 the land was given by the British consulate to the
city of Naples. The grounds were restored as a park
between 1990-93, a project that entailed the removal of
most of the graves to the main municipal cemetery of
Poggioreale. Left intact and very visible remain nine
funerary monuments from the second half of the 19th
century that are artistically interesting, including the
Mary Somerville tomb by prominent Calabrian sculptor,
Francesco Jerace. His many other works include the
statue of Beethoven in the courtyard of the Naples music conservatory, the
statue of Victor Emanuel II on the façade of the Royal Palace in Naples, the bas-relief on the facade of the University of Naples, and the
group figure of L'Azione (Action), part
of the Vittoriano, the great national
monument to Victor Emanuel II in Rome.
In 1993, Electa publishers in Naples issued a photographic catalog of the restored premises of the gardens of Santa Maria della Fede, entitled The English Cemetery, edited by Giancarlo Alisio.
see this unfortunate update
from August 2011.
AGAIN! --Feb. 11, 2021
The former English cemetery after 21 years of being idle, vandalized, spray-painted, turned into a rubbish dump cum public toilet is in the process of being cleaned up in preparation for being reopened as what it used to be — a nice little park. It's part of the age-old Naples approach to dealing with unemployment —build it, let it go to hell, build it again, hell, build, hell, build, and so forth. Forever. It's one of nature's great cycles. Disney made a documentary about it. I won't be here the next time it happens, so please keep track of it for me.
------------------------added Nov 2022-------------------------------------
Say, Whatever Happened
to the Old English
"It seems to me I've heard that song before / It's from an old familiar score"
"I've heard that song before." 1942. Music, Jule Styne; lyrics, Sammy Cahn
I really want this to be the time when they get right it right. La Repubblica ran an article the other day that said
"After 21 years the historic Santa Maria della Fede garden, former cemetery for Protestants and non-Catholics in Naples
has reopened to the public. It is the only "green lung"* between Corso Garibaldi and Via Aremaccia."
The park was closed in the wake of flooding in Sept. 2001. There were failed attempts to restore the premises from 2012-2017. The current plan earmarks 15 million euros for 2 years to clean up and restore 22 abandoned parks in 10 towns in the Campania region. That very ambitious, but as the song says...
*"green lung"= The vegetation in the garden that gives you oxygen in exchange for all that carbon dioxide you're
breathing all over that monument, you oaf.