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Art & History

The Monumental Cemetery, the open-air museum of Milan

News > Art & History | The Monumental Cemetery, the open-air museum of Milan

We know what you’re thinking: “A cemetery? Really? Why should I visit a cemetery?! “.
Do not be alarmed and read on: the Monumentale is not just a cemetery, but it is, instead, a real cultural attraction. The architecture, the crypts, the paths and the graves welcome its visitors in an atmosphere far from being gloomy. With its 250,000 square meters, the Monumental amazes because of the grandeur of its size and its works treasured.

It all started with Napoleon

The Monumental Cemetery, the open-air museum of Milan


Before 1796, in Milan, there were no cemeteries as we know them today: bodies, in fact, were buried outside the city walls. It was Napoleon who required the construction of a cemetery: he decided to open a competition for the construction of a cemetery that would encompass all those of the suburbs.
Several projects were presented. Many ambitious, some less, but only one managed to impress the city of Milan, for two simple reasons. First, it was the least expensive; then, it followed to the letter the eclectic style in vogue at the time.

180.00 square meters (now 250,000) and different sections for different burials (Catholics, non-Catholics and Jews): the project by architect Carlo Maciachini made everyone happy.

Today, after several years of restoration of both the façade and the square, you can visit the Monumental in all its imposing beauty.

Why should you bother visiting the Monumental?

Monuments in Milan


Just by looking at it from the outside you’ll be amazed. Not because it’s scary or sad, as one might think: the Monumental is a sort of wide peaceful oasis, where silence and tranquility reign and surround real works of art enriched by interesting details.

The cemetery consists of three parts: the central one houses the graves of Catholic families; one on the right, there’s a space reserved to the Israelites, while on left, there is a space dedicated to non-Catholics souls.
Start your visit from the memorial chapel, the central structure first built as a church, but soon turned into a Pantheon to house the bodies of the great people of Milan. Opened in 1883, it sits atop a tall staircase.

Despite the cemetery presents an architectural style somewhere between romantic and gothic, the memorial chapel is instead characterized by a neo-medieval style and, on the facade, stands the statue of the Glory with three lunettes that enclose three mosaics representing history fame and light.

What to see in Milan


Marble and brick humbly welcome the famous names such as those of Alessandro Manzoni, Giorgio Gaber and Alda Merini. A name which, however, does not appear, is the one of Giuseppe Verdi who managed to elude Napoleon’s veto and to be buried in the nursing home he built.
Your journey continues in the funeral city, where you will be impressed by the size and sophistication of some graves, which are nothing but real works of art.

You’ll find Campari’s grave who asked Giannino Castiglioni to build a representation of the Last Supper in life-sized bronze. Another monument not to be missed is Arturo Toscanini‘s grave: the composition, which alludes to the premature death of his son, immediately strikes the viewer for its dramatic and yet delicate look. On the back there’s a ship that metaphorically represents the trespassing time.

Tour in Milan


The surprises are many: to discover them, you just need to walk around the Monumental, sit in the shade of a tree and wander around its boulevards.

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