Dante vivo || White Silence






A piazza in Florence, a cemetery on a hill with its tall cypresses, perhaps once an Etruscan tomb, now strangely set in the midst of swirling modern traffic, through whose gates visitors step into a different past. An archive, a library, in situ, with the documents and also with the books by and about the persons buried here: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Walter Savage Landor, Frances Trollope, Southwood Smith, Arthur Hugh Clough, Jean Pierre Vieusseux, Hiram Powers, Theodore Parker, Richard Hildreth, the sister of Henry Adams, the wife of Holman Hunt, the daughter of Arnold Bőcklin, the son of Ferenc Pulszky, the governess of the Tsar of Russia, the son of William IV of England, twelve participants of the Peninsula and Waterloo battles against Napoleon, many friends of Florence Nightingale, whose tombs the ex-slave Frederick Douglass visited. A place filled with memory, for Florence, for Italy, for Europe, for the world. A place dense with meaning, a burning glass of history, for Civil Rights, for the Aboliton of Slavery, for the rights of nations (among them Greece, Italy, Poland, Hungary), to be freed from foreign oppression, for the rights of women, for the rights of children, for health and welfare, a place for poets and sculptors, a place for writers and artists. In its oval, reflecting the bicameral structuring of the brain, are multiple languages, a United Nations in a city square, peaceably altogether, the archives in French and Italian, the tombstones they document in Hebrew, Greek, Roman, Cyrillic and fraktura alphabets and in most European languages, including Rumantsch. A cemetery celebrated in Arnold Bőcklin's 'Island of the Dead' and in Sergei Rachmaninoff's music to the same. Nobles and commoners lying with slaves, serfs and servants, all walks of life, the Swiss owners burying pauper travellers for free. In the nineteenth century a beautiful garden, now being restored in the twenty-first, after years of abandonment and neglect, from research in Victorian diaries and guidebooks and from old photographs and paintings. A place whose intent was, is and will continue to be the 'Memory of the World'.

The Swiss-owned so-called 'English' Cemetery as it was from 1827 to the late 1860's. At the Risorgimento Giuseppe Poggi re-designed Florence, briefly Italy's capital, with Parisian boulevards, tearing down the medieval walls built by Arnolfo di Cambio and Michelangelo Buonarotti to do so. The 'English' Cemetery had nestled against the outside of the medieval wall by the Porta a' Pinti Gate. It still has the two stemma of the lily and the cross Arnolfo sculpted.

The Cemetery with its Gatehouse, housing the library and archive, as they are now. The tomb of Elizabeth Barrett Browning is the large sarcophagus on six colums to be seen in the centre on this side of the central path. The large building behind the Cemetery is the studio of Michele Gordigiani, who painted the two portraits of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning which are now in London's National Portrait Gallery. Francesca Gordigiani, his descendant, still lives in his studio. We recommend you call up Google Earth and ask it for 'Piazzale Donatello, Florence', to see a further aerial view of the Cemetery and Gatehouse..

To call up each section of this file click on the following:

I. The Swiss Archives

Receipt for burial of Elizabeth Barrett Browning

II. The Swiss-owned so-called 'English' Cemetery

III. Florence in Sepia

IV. Florence's Flood, 1966

V. The Mediatheca 'Fioretta Mazzei'

VI. The Florin Website

VII. 'The City and the Book'
International Conferences in Florence

VIII. The Romanian Roma Restorers

IX. Julia Bolton Holloway, Custodian, Vita



Cimitero di Porta a’ Pinti cosidetto Cimitero “degli Inglesi”

(Florence's ‘English’ Cemetery, its archives, and its Mediatheca)



Ref N° 2010-44




1          SUMMARY


Florence’s cosmopolitan Swiss-owned so-called ‘English’ Cemetery, its archives and library of books by and about the international and ecumenical persons buried between 1827-1877, nobles, artists, poets, servants, serfs and slaves, British, Swiss, American, Russian, Scandinavian and others, with inscriptions in Hebrew, Greek, Roman, Cyrillic and fraktura letters, and in most European languages, including Rumantsch, distils into a small space and fifty years of time a dense history of Florence, of Europe, of the world. Many of these persons participated in the Peninsula and Waterloo battles against Napoleon, many were friends of Florence Nightingale and Henri Dinant, many worked ardently for the Abolition of Slavery (Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Frances Trollope, Richard Hildreth, Hiram Powers, Theodore Parker, with the ex-slave Frederick Douglass visiting their tombs), against the employment of children in mines and factories (EBB, Frances Trollope, Southwood Smith), many for the rights of women and many for the freeing of nations such as Greece and Italy under foreign oppression (EBB, Walter Savage Landor, Hiram Powers, Theodosia Trollope, Isa Blagden, Giampietro Vieusseux, the son of Ferenc Pulszky, the husband of Mary Somerville). The burial registers and accounts are meticulously hand-written in French by the Swiss owners, the archive thus being simultaneously chiselled on marble and inscribed on enduring rag paper. The tombs are sculpted by the leading nineteenth century Italian, English, American and Russian sculptors. The restoration is being carried out through research in diaries, guidebooks, engravings and photographs of the period and through work/study by Romanian Roma who are skilled, but mainly illiterate, craftspeople under the supervision of experts in an alphabetization programme. The Romanian Roma were themselves slaves from the Middle Ages until the nineteenth century when Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe being influenced by Frances Trollope and Richard Hildreth’s anti-slavery novels) was translated into Romanian. The Cemetery is memorialized in Arnold Böcklin’s Island of the Dead and in Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony on the painting. It is a place dense with meaning.





2.1       Name (person or organisation)


Julia Bolton Holloway, Custodian, President, ‘Aureo Anello’ Associazione

Gerardo Kraft, President, Chiesa Evangelica Riformata Svizzera, Florence

Mario Marziale, Pastore, Chiesa Evangelica Riformata Svizzera, Florence


2.2       Relationship to the documentary heritage nominated


Julia Bolton Holloway is the ‘English’ Cemetery’s Custodian, Director of its Mediatheca ‘Fioretta Mazzei, President of the Aureo Anello Association, Professor Emerita, archivist, and editor for Penguin of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh and Other Poems.


Gerardo Kraft is President of the Swiss Evangelical Reformed Church in Florence which has owned the Cemetery since the acquisition of its land from the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1827. He has been Honorary Swiss Consul and his family have lived in Florence for generations while maintaining their Swiss citizenship.


Mario Marziale is the Pastore of the Swiss Evangelical Reformed Church in Florence, has published on the church’s history, and is an archivist.


2.3       Contact person (s)


Julia Bolton Holloway


2.4       Contact details (include address, phone, fax, email)


Julia Bolton Holloway

‘English’ Cemetery

P.le Donatello, 38


(39) 055 582608 (phone and fax)








3.1       Name and identification details of the items being nominated


Florence’s ‘Cimitero di Porta a’ Pinti cosidetto Cimitero “degli Inglesi”’, the Swiss-owned so-called ‘English’ Cemetery, its archives, and its Mediatheca.



3.2       Description


This documentation demonstrates the ongoing conservation and digitizing of the materials and the documentation of that process, in marble, on paper and on the Web. Training under experts takes place on the premises in restoration work on the tombs and of books and archival documents. Accessibility to the materials is both in situ and virtual in the form of physical visits by persons from worldwide to the Cemetery and its Mediatheca and virtual visits on the Web at http://www.florin.ms , http://piazzaledonatello.blogspot.com and http://www.ringofgold.eu. Scholars, photographers and artists using the materials are required to present a copy of their work for the Cemetery’s archives. Descendants voluntarily present relevant materials, for instance, photographs of the medals of the Crimea that are sculpted on a tomb and which still in the possession of the family. We share our materials with other organizations such as the Waterloo Committee for use in their publications. Members of the Aureo Anello Associazione present books to the library relevant to the Cemetery, etc., in particular books by and about the persons buried here.


An important facet of the collection is the many translations and editions of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese (French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese. Hungarian, Czech), that we now possess. We give in this packet a numbered copy of our own hand-bound bi-lingual limited edition in English and Italian of EBB’s Sonnets and Ballads which include her anti-slavery poems and which raises funds for the restoration of tombs. Research has also been carried out on Lord Leighton’s sketches for his design of her tomb, sketchbooks which are to be found at Leighton House Museum, the Royal Academy Library and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and which include his design of the Exodus harp with the broken slave shackle. We exhibit the ‘Florence in Sepia’ photographs, the rare books and first editions by persons buried here, and the pieces of Roman, medieval and Renaissance pottery we find in our soil. These are shown in a room with limited lighting for their preservation.





4.1       Is authenticity established?

Careful contemporary and later documentation exists on the premises for each of the 1,400 burials and for the remaining 700 tombs. In Tuscany in this period the churches rather than the State were responsible for the registration of births, marriages and deaths. Duplicate records are held in the Guildhall Library, London, for the Anglican burials in the Cemetery and in St Petersburg for the Russian Orthodox burials. We have collated our entries with these with the help of scholars. The entire schedatura of the monuments is being compiled for the Belle Arti. By their very nature this material, whether in stone or on paper, is about authenticating burials.



4.2       Is world significance, uniqueness and irreplaceability established?


In a small area of land, now an island in the midst of Florentine traffic, monuments were erected and documented concerning the memory of many international and ecumenical figures who shaped history in their own time, their ideals continuing into the future. Thousands visit the Cemetery, including the American ex-slave Frederick Douglass, Arnold Böcklin painted it in Island of the Dead, Sergei Rachmaninoff composed music it, Franco Zeffirelli filmed it in Tea With Mussolini, many scholars and artists work within its oval beneath its tall cypresses. It was abandoned for a century, its fine garden put to weed killer, the tombs vandalized, but both the tombs and the garden are now being restored in a ten year project. The archives are being carefully studied in relation to the monuments. A library was established collecting books by and about the persons buried here. Six thousand persons, on the web and as physical visitors to the Cemetery, have signed its petition that it remain open, that it be restored and that it be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


4.3       Is one or more of the criteria of (a) time (b) place (c) people (d) subject and theme (e) form and style (f) social, spiritual and community significance satisfied?


(a) The ‘English’ Cemetery represents the memorializing in marble and paper of a half century (1827-1877), as if frozen in time. It documents an important era in Italy’s history, the Risorgimento, in English history, the Regency and Victorian periods, in European history, the Napoleonic era, and in world history, the Colonial presence


(b) The ‘English’ Cemetery is, in a sense, the world and its meanings gathered up into one small, dense place, an ‘Island of the Dead’ in Florence, a Cemetery which originally lay just outside the wall and gate known as the Porta a’ Pinti, first built by Arnolfo di Cambio with his sculpted stemma of the lily and the cross, using the stones from the Ghibelline ‘towers of pride’ for the Guelf walls of common defence, then rebuilt by Michelangelo Buonarotti to fortify the city against the Medici. It is thought that this artificial hill was erected as an Etruscan tomb and it is situated on the road leading toward Etruscan Fiesole, the gate being originally called the Porta Fiesolana. The hill was further built up with rubbish dumped over the medieval wall, resulting in many shards of hand-painted maiolica ware being collected from its soil. These have been identified and catalogued by Marino Marini of the Uffizi Gallery as Roman, medieval, Renaissance and modern, at the urging of Timothy Wilson of the Ashmolean Museum, and which include several pieces with the crutch, the emblem of the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova, founded by Dante’s Beatrice’s father, Folco Portinari. We have the complete documentation between Giuseppe Poggi and the Swiss owners at the Risorgimento concerning the Cemetery’s restructuring, with the destruction of the medieval/Renaissance wall and the changing of its shape to an oval surrounded by Parisian-like boulevards.


(c) Influential foreigners flocked to Florence because it was cultured and cheap and because they thought that their illnesses, such as tuberculosis, could find a cure there. Prior to 1827 non-Catholics could not be buried in Florence if they died here, the cadavres needing to be transported to Livorno without benefit of refrigeration. For the next half century the illustrious and also almost unknown dead could find burial under its tall cypresses, the Swiss burying pauper travellers for free as an act of charity. In a sense it is a sister cemetery to Rome’s Protestant Cemetery whose tombs for the poets Keats and Shelley are matched by those for Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Walter Savage Landor and Arthur Hugh Clough. Mary Somerville buried her husband, William, here, she herself being buried in Naples in a tomb sculpted by Francesco Jerace. A self-taught mathematician, she was responsible for the discovery of Neptune and Pluto and taught Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter mathematics, Ada then, with Charles Babbage, inventing the computer, for she suggested to him using Jacquard loom cards with holes punched in them and the Binomial Theorem. Frances Trollope and Richard Hildreth wrote the first and second anti-slavery novels, to be copied by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Southwood Smith, Frances Trollope and EBB wrote against the employment of children in mines and factories. Not only the burials but also the Cemetery’s sculptors are of world interest, Lorenzo Bartolini, Odoardo Fantacchiotti, Holman Hunt, Frederic Lord Leighton, Hiram Powers, Francesco Jerace, Michele Auteri Pomar, Emilio Zocchi, Johan Bystrom, Fyodor Kamensky, and others. It reflects a moment of great creative energy, before the skills from antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, in literature and art were lost. Our burials are associated with the Pre-Raphaelites, with the Oxford Movement, with the Abolition of Slavery, with the Risorgimento, with the development of hospitals. Excellence in literature and art, especially poetry and sculpture, and in medicine and in mathematics, by both women and men, are celebrated here. It is memorialized in Arnold Böcklin’s Island of the Dead and in Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony on the painting and, later, by Franco Zeffirelli’s Tea with Mussolini. Children, women and men are equally present.


(d) Funerary and burial records and the resulting tombs, deepened further by the library’s gathering of books and documentation by and about the persons buried here, demonstrate the themes of hope (the black slave brought at 14 from Nubia in 1827 is baptized with the name Nadezhda (‘Hope’) in a Russian Orthodox family, her story being told on her marble tomb in Cyrillic; the sculpture by Odoardo Fantachiotti of ‘Hope’; the American child Hope Hayward, buried in a tomb with the inscription, ‘Our Hope’), and freedom, with the many participants in the Risorgimento and other seekers after liberation, from the Turks in Greece, from the Russians in Poland, from the Austrians in Hungary, from the French of Napoleon by the English, Irish, Scots and Welsh, etc.


(e) The earlier period of the Cemetery is dominated by copies of Neo-Classical monuments, including cinerary and lacrimal urns on columns, or broken columns garlanded by flowers, or great sarcophagi, when, at this period, only burial in the earth was actually carried out. These monuments, which give the Cemetery a romantic and very beautiful aspect, were mainly created by Pietro Bazzanti whose firm still exists in Florence at the Palazzo Corsini on the Arno. He was also much influenced by Expedition to Egypt and Nubia carried out the year the Cemetery started by Champollion and Rosellini and which was funded by the Grand Duke of Tuscany. The Cemetery’s resulting Egyptian forms of obelisks and pyramids and motifs sculpted on the tombs have been studied, documented and catalogued by Florence’s Museo Archeologico (enclosed). The later monuments, by world-famous sculptors (see http://www.florin.ms/sculptors.html), are in a more naturalistic Victorian style. In both periods the less showy tombs could be of incised slabs or stele of marble. Only half our tombs survive. Some we cannot identify.


(f) Until 1827 only Catholics and observant Jews could be buried in Florence. The Grand Duke, of the Enlightenment, sold the land to the Swiss for the Cemetery in the face of  considerable opposition from the Church. It was opened for burial to Protestants, Anglicans, Orthodox, non-observant Jews, and others. Later, the Grand Duke became more conservative, calling in the Austrian army to regain his power, and during this period Italians who became Protestant were imprisoned, one of our burials being of Rosa Madiai, this period being documented by Elizabeth Barrett Browning in Casa Guidi Windows and by Walter Savage Landor in his last Imaginary Conversation, which is about Rosa Madiai who is also buried here. As well as representing a move to greater freedom of religion the Cemetery is the final resting place of many who worked the Abolition of Slavery, for better conditions for children working in mines and factories, for the rights of nations and for the rights of women. The so-called ‘English’ Cemetery today is much loved by Florentines as a place commemorating those who came from abroad appreciating their city and opening it to the world. It is also world famous as the burial place of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, as portrayed in the Swiss Arnold Böcklin’s painting, the ‘Island of the Dead’, and in Sergei Rachmaninoff’s music on the same. Despite some disapproval, the Custodian is a Catholic hermit who lives on the premises preventing vandalism in exchange for space for an ecumenical, polyglot library (which contains a section on trauma and nomadic and indigenous populations subject to discrimination and poverty), and who works as non-salaried volunteer for the Protestant Swiss church’s President and Pastore. This troika have agreed that the Romanian Roma work/study project is of value as a means for inserting these new European Citizens into their full Civil Rights to work, housing, education and medicine. The Cemetery and its library and archive is a continuing monument for the freedom of religion, for the Risorgimento of Italy, for the rights of women and children, and for the Abolition of Slavery and its Civil Rights movement, then and now.


4.4       Are there issues of rarity, integrity, threat and management that relate to this nomination?


There were earlier attempts by the Swiss to give the Cemetery to the Comune, then to FAI, as it was seen as a ‘white elephant’ liability, not an asset. It could easily have become a parking lot as has happened beneath the island in the same boulevard, the Viale Gramsci, where the Florentine State Archives are now situated. It had been neglected badly for a long period but the Custodian as President of the Aureo Anello Associazione, a Friends of the Library group that next became also a Friends of the Cemetery group, has worked closely with the Pastor and the President of the Swiss Church to raise funds, to effect the Cemetery’s restoration and to document its archives, in tandem with SDIAF and the Soprintendenza Archivistica per la Toscana and with the Belle Arti. We document our work in the newest archival medium, on the Web, at http://www.florin.ms, a website that Google Analytics gives as receiving 13,000 page views from 110 countries/territories a month.


The work of conservation is urgent as many of the inscriptions on the monuments have become unreadable due to traffic pollution. The Opificio delle Pietra Dura and CNR ‘Nello Carrara’ carry out research on the degradation of the marble and pietra serena. Professor I. Trizzino and his students of the Facoltà di Scienze Matematiche Fisiche e Naturali, Corso di Laurea in Tecnologia per la Conservazione e il Restauro dei Beni Culturali, have written an 85 page ilustrated handbook on the ‘English’ Cemetery. It will be possible with the Romanian Roma workers to clean the tombs under expert supervision (using alkali and elbow grease, never acid) and to seal the marble with crystalline wax every two years to protect them from the traffic pollution. Employing the Romanian Roma workers will lift them out of dire poverty and mendicancy and enable them to become literate. This section of the project is called ‘From Graves to Cradles’. The Roma are subjected, as were former slave blacks in America, to profoundly disturbing racial prejudice in both their own country and in Italy. We desire to showcase their restoration skills so that they may win respect. To this end we are working with the EU Commission’s Social Fund, the Regione Toscana and the Open Society Institute of the George Soros Foundation in Budapest. We have formed with our workers a sister association, Asociaţia ‘Agrustic Somnacuni’ for them to preserve their families and to preserve their Romanes language. This stage of the project shall be fully documented on the web at the website http://www.ringofgold.eu.





5.1.      Owner of the documentary heritage (name and contact details)


Gerardo Kraft, President, Chiesa Evangelica Riformata Svizzera

Cimitero Porta a’ Pinti

P.le Donatello, 38

50132 Firenze, Italy



5.2       Custodian of the documentary heritage (name and contact details, if different to owner)


Julia Bolton Holloway in consultation with Pastore Mario Marziale

Cimitero Porta a’ Pinti

P.le Donatello, 38

50132 Firenze, Italy


5.3       Legal status:


            (a) Category of ownership



            (b) Accessibility

We are open to the public Monday mornings, 9:00 a.m - 12:00 m, Tuesdays through Fridays, in winter, 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m., in summer, 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. There are stairs at the gate with a railing for the infirm that we have had installed. The hill has a gradual incline.


            (c) Copyright status

We require all photographers and researchers to receive permission and to give a copy of their work for the archives.


            (d) Responsible administration

Julia Bolton Holloway


            (e) Other factors





6.1       Is there a management plan in existence for this documentary heritage? YES/NO



Research: For ten years we have carried out intense research on the so-called ‘English’ Cemetery and have doubled the size of its Mediatheca’Fioretta Mazzei’.

A book has already been published on the History of the Swiss Church and its Cemetery by Pastore Mario Marziale.

A further book is being written by Julia Bolton Holloway, Custodian, to be titled Thunders of White Silence; Florence’s ‘English’ Cemetery, telling the stories of the tombs sector by sector in chapter after chapter, followed by a chapter documenting the history of the Romanian Roma and their work in restoring the Cemetery, and which will include a DVD giving the complete schedatura for each tomb as compiled for the Belle Arti and its accompanying archival documentation.


Conservation: Our Archives are stored on the premises in an upstairs armadio, safe from flooding, and can be consulted and photographed with our consent in our library on the main floor.

Our Cemetery is a laboratory for restoration work and used by CNR “Nello Carrara”, the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, and the Istituto per l’Arte ed il Restauro. In consultation with the Belle Arti, CNR and Opificio delle Pietre Dure we contract with experts and with workers to carry out consolidation and conservation projects.

We teach book-binding and restoration and paper marbling, using nineteenth century equipment and methods.


Cultural Activities: We hold international conferences with scholars on the Cemetery in the series we established on ‘The City and the Book’, publishing their Proceedings on the Web. As well, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale of Florence has held an exhibition on our Egyptian motives, inspired by the 1828 Expedition of Champollion and Rosellini, and the Gabinetto Vieusseux has held a conference and exhibition on ‘Hiram Powers a Firenze: Convegno e mostra documentarian el bicentenario della nascita (1805-2005)’.

We have been televised several times on Italian television, on Swiss television (on our Rumantsch graves) and on British television.

We encourage poetry readings and artists sketching in the Cemetery. Theatre groups and film directors use our setting for performances and films.

Many university programmes schedule guided tours of the Cemetery for their students.

We strongly encourage educational and cultural activities.


Publicity: We aggressively maintain websites, a weblog and a Facebook page. We document our research and conservation simultaneously on the Web at http://www.florin.ms http://piazzaledonatello.blogspèot.com and http://www.ringofgold.eu


Funding: We actively seek funding for the restoration and maintenance of the Cemetery from private individuals, from descendants, from associations and foundations, and from city, provincial, regional, European and United Nations governmental entities. Our Nomination to the Memory of the World is a part of this fund-raising project.




7.1       Provide details of consultation about this nomination with (a) the owner of the heritage (b) the custodian (c) your national or regional Memory of the World committee


(a & b) From 1827 the Cemetery has been administered by the Pastor and the President of the Swiss Evangelical Reformed Church in Florence working together with its Custodian. Today this Committee meets together each Tuesday morning in the library, the Mediatheca ‘Fioretta Mazzei’ within the Cemetery, and it is this Committee that submits this Nomination, working together in synergy.


(c) We sought diligently to place this nomination with the Italian National Committee for UNESCO but have failed in making any meaningful contact with that body. Perhaps it is difficult for an Italian, Rome-based and non-English speaking body to comprehend us. We are, however, valued by the Ministero per I Beni e le Attività Culturale, the Regione Toscana, the Provincia di Firenze and the Comune di Firenze, and by their entitities safeguarding archives. We are a member of ASCE, Association of Significant Cemeteries in Europe. We network with the Casa Guidi, EBB’s home and now a museum in Florence, with Eton College which houses a fine collection of Browning material, with the Armstrong Browning Library of Baylor University in Texas, which has the largest collection of Browning material, with the Leighton House Museum in London, with the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, and with the international members of our Aureo Anello Associazione who are descendants, scholars and other interested persons. Our work with the Roma from Romania in Florence involves us with the European Commission, with Romanian Government’s National Agency for Roma and with the Open Society Institute in Budapest.







8.1       Detail the nature and scope of threats to this documentary heritage (see 5.5)


Decay, neglect, pollution, lack of proper drainage to the hill, and vandalism of the monuments has been a matter of concern to Florentines for several generations. The previous neglect of both the documentation and of the monuments resulted in their depreciation, the Cemetery and its archive being considered a ‘White Elephant’, particularly when the Swiss Evangelical Reformed Church was forced by the Comune of Florence to pay millions to restore the rusted, broken iron railing, a railing originally put in place and owned by the Comune. Following the burial of the famous Ballerino and Choreographer Evgen Polyakov the Comune of Florence granted the Swiss Church permission to create 500 new loculi for the burial of ashes. While this activity will fund the maintenance of the Cemetery it is also a threat to its integrity, marring the beauty of the old monuments with glaring modern machine-made products. (We limit the size and height of the new graves.) Another threat is the projected building of the ‘tramvia’, which is essentially an urban train, that is planned to pass along both sides of the Cemetery’s oval.




9.1       Detail the preservation context of the documentary heritage (see 3.3)


I. The Archives are in excellent condition, apart from some 1966 Flood damage, due to the rag paper on which they are written, but they are in need of duplication lest they be lost in a fire or a further flood and their data lost. They are carefully kept in an upstairs armadio for safety. The Soprintendenza Archivistica per la Toscana is willing to consult on this task. The burial entries are of great interest as they document the Canton, the profession, the parents’ names, and even the mother’s maiden name, of the deceased, while the accounts give full details of the coffin, its wood, whether lined with white silk or not, the horse and carriage hire, the plumes, the gloves and crepe for the hats, and of the grave, whether walled or not, etc. (Within half a block is another abandoned cemetery, that of the all-male Misericordia, which even has the funerary carriages and hearses of long ago mouldering away under its arches. It could be splendid to preserve both Cemeteries as a kind of Florentine Père Lachaise.) We liaise with SDIAF (Sistema Documentario Integrato dell'Area Fiorentina), and the Soprintendenza Archivistica per la Toscana, for which see their letters enclosed with this Nomination.


II. The ‘English’ Cemetery tombs have been badly damaged, partly by a British bomb (friendly fire?) in WWII, by the subsidence of the hill (especially in the 1966 Flood), by vandals and by pollution. They have also been damaged by traffic pollution and acid rain and many of the inscriptions are disappearing. They are catalogued carefully with descriptions, measurements and digital photographs, their inscriptions likewise carefully recorded as an archive in marble, and are studied as a laboratory in conservation methods by CNR “Nello Carrara” and the Opificio delle Pietre Dure. The monuments are now being restored according to the availability of funds from descendants and corporate bodies. Along with the restoration of the tombs, work is being carried out to restore the nineteenth-century English garden using as documentation diaries, guidebook descriptions, engravings and photographs of the period. For years it had been put to weedkiller, now forbidden, and which had used chemicals that had also eroded the pietra serena bases to the tombs. Visitors donate daffodil, narcissus, hyacinth, lilies and iris bulbs, box, myrtle, lavender, papyri and rose bushes. The Florentine lily is our wild purple iris and these in the Spring are a dream. The cypresses, famed in Arnold Böcklin’s ‘Island of the Dead’ are under the care of an expert. We no longer allow plants with invasive roots, such as laurel or cherry, finding these destroy tombs. The Roma are excellent workers, as blacksmiths for the iron, as stonemasons for the tombs and the dry walls, and as gardeners, preferring to use manual labour rather than ‘quick fix’ chemicals and machinery. We are under the tutela of the Belle Arti (Soprintendenza per i Beni Architettonici ed il Paesaggio e per il Patrimonio Storico Artistico e Demoetnoantropologico per le provincie di Firenze, Pistoia e Prato) of MiBAC (Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali) of the Italian Government, and are compiling for them the complete schedatura of the Cemetery’s monuments. We liaise with the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. We participate in the EVA conferences in Florence.


III & IV. ‘Florence in Sepia’, ‘Florence’s 1966 Flood’ and other photograph collections. The collections of nineteenth and twentieth century photographs of Florence are conserved, digitized and exhibited. We are in contact with the descendants of Hiram Powers who own a complete archive of the photographs of his son, Longworth Powers, of Florence, and in particular, of the English Cemetery. It is planned that these, too, will be digitized for guidance in restoration work in the Cemetery. Similarly, an album of photographs, now in Scotland in the possession of Lord Crawford, descendant of Lord Lindsay, gives photographs of two tombs by Félicie de Fauveau. A further exhibition of photographs, ‘Now Let Us Praise the Roma’ is by Karen Graffeo of the Roma families in Florence, Bologna and Romania. Karen’s family in Alabama featured in James Agee and Walker Evans’ Depression Era Now Let Us Praise Famous Men. These join the Roma cradle and are exhibited in the library. The library, as well, collects fine volumes on photography, including one by Jonathan David and Richard Holloway, Together Let Us Sweetly Sing. All photographers working in the Cemetery are required to give a copy for our archives.


V. The Mediatheca ‘Fioretta Mazzei’ collects books and offprints, publishes books and CDs, binds and restores books, marbles paper, and conducts classes in book-binding, book restoration and paper marbling. We particularly collect books by and about our persons buried here. Recordings are made of readings from Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Walter Savage Landor, Dante Alighieri and others. Its next project shall be to record the poetry of Arthur Hugh Clough. We originally used an IPod with an X-treme Mic but these became obsolete so we have recently purchased the USB Yeti microphone for this task. With the purchase of a videocamera we hope to film aspects of the restoration work which can then be published on the Florin and RingofGold websites. We liaise with many other associations, the Waterloo Committee (letter enclosed), the Leighton House Museum, the Armstrong Browning Library of Baylor University, the Walter Savage Landor Society of Warwick, the Brontë Society, Saltaire (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and ASCE (Association of Significant Cemeteries in Europe).


VI. The Florin website, http://www.florin.ms, is constantly maintained and updated with essays, recordings, ‘City and Book’ Proceedings, and research concerning the Cemetery and concerning Florence. It receives, according to Google Analytics, over 13,000 page views a month from 110 countries. It has an accompanying blog, http://piazzaledonatello.blogspot.com and a presence on Facebook. These are means for making contact with descendants and scholars, sharing information, organizing international conferences, raising awareness concerning the Roma and for raising funds for the Cemetery’s restoration and maintenance


VII. The international conferences in Florence and, in future, other cities on ‘The City and the Book’ are initiated by a Call for Papers published on scholarly Discussion Lists on the Web and their Proceedings are published on the Florin website during and immediately following the conferences. Concurrently with them we hold Book Fairs and courses in calligraphy, manuscript illumination, book-binding and book restoration.


VIII. We have worked with Roma families from Romania in Florence for nine years, shaping the ‘From Graves to Cradles’ project with them. This accords with the anti-slavery theme of our Cemetery and also with Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s heroine Marian Erle in Aurora Leigh, who teaches herself to read and write and who is Roma. These Romanian Roma families in Florence have carried out dry wall rebuilding, conservation of the wrought and cast iron of the tombs, tomb restoration and cleaning of the marble, and gardening, in exchange for literacy and computer skills. In 2008 the Bishop of Fiesole gave €5000 to the project to employ the Romanian Roma Daniel Dumitrescu to conserve the Cemetery’s rusted but splendid nineteenth-century wrought and cast iron work and this was carried out excellently at the same time that Daniel built two wooden rocking cradles, one for our library, the Mediatheca ‘Fioretta Mazzei’, the other for his new-born daughter, Gabriela. In 2010, Daniel, 25, now President of Asociaţia Agrustic Somnacuni, returned from Romania to restore the pietra serena bases of many of the tombs and to clean two marble tombs, one for the ancestor of the Viscount Gough, the other partly sculpted by Francesco Jerace, who also sculpted the Mary Somerville figure for her tomb in Naples. The RingofGold website serves for literacy and skills training, health care and educating against racism. Daniel and his wife have created and illustrated booklets in four languages that are also online. Their Asociaţia ‘Agrustic Somnacuni’ has as mission the preservation of Roma families and the Romanes language. The Roma in Romania were not only slaves from the Middle Ages until the nineteenth century, they were also victims of the Holocaust and received no reparations. We liaise with the European Commission, the National Agency for Roma of the Romanian Government, the Open Society Institute of George Soros, the Regione Toscana, the Opera di San Procolo, the Fondazione Giovanni Michelucci, the Fondazione Don Lorenzo Milani, the Valdensian Church in Florence, concerning this project.     



Dante vivo || White Silence

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