What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.
If you know me at all, you know I am not one you would describe as being a thanatologist. Quite to the contrary, I avoid the subject of death and dying more often than not. That’s why I surprised myself by taking Rob to see Milano’s Cimitero Monumentale today.
Cimitero Monumentale is one to the two largest cemeteries in Milano. Covering more than 60 acres, the cemetery has more than 15,000 sculptures and mausoleums as well as ossuaries and columbariums. You read that right: more than 15,000 sculptures and mausoleums. There are also sections for those who are not Catholic and for members of the Jewish faith as well as the first crematorium that opened in the western world. The crematorium is no longer operational.
I think part of the reason being in the cemetery did not bother me was that fact that the sculptures and mausoleums made it look more like an open-air museum than a burial place. We could not get over how large hundreds (and probably thousands) of the memorials are. Take for example, the three below.
The Tomba della Familia Besenzanica (left) consists of bronze farmers and oxen and a stone woman representing nature (according to the architect). The middle one looks more like a carriage house with beautiful landscaping around it. The modern mausoleum on the right is backdrop to some of the more modest plots in the cemetery.
One of the largest memorials is the bronze Last Supper that honors the Campari family of Campari liquor fame. Davide Campari, son of Campari founder Gaetano, commissioned sculptor Giannino Castiglioni to sculpt this over-size scene in 1935. No one is buried in that part of the sculpture, but behind it is a staircase that leads to the family mausoleum. (No, I did not go down, nor would I want to.)
Many of the monuments had sculptures of the deceased. Note the three below. The gentleman on the left was a lawyer, and his bronze sculpture shows him holding a law book. The lady and gentleman in the next two photos were spouses who died in the late 19th century. There are two additional sculptures on the other side of this tomb.
I must admit that my favorite tomb was one we found on the main walkway in the cemetery. While you cannot tell from the photo below, the tomb was quite large, maybe five-feet square. There were no names that I saw, but one said said “Madre e Figlio” (Mother and Son). The best part, though, was the “Arrivederci!!!” on top.
I will admit to being a little put-off by the size and scope of a lot of the monuments. There are lists of the sculptors and architects who designed and built the tombs. I find it odd that someone would spend so much money on such a large building or monument after his/her death. I just don’t get it, but then I guess what I think doesn’t matter.