Sunday, September 25, 2005


In the nineteenth century the Swiss-owned so-called 'English' Cemetery, with its tombs of so many world citizens, English, Swiss, Russian, Greek, Polish, Hungarian, Scandinavian, American, Australian, was a beautiful garden, with roses and jasmine climbing the wrought iron arches on children's tombs, sweet-smelling lavender, myrtle and rosemary. We would harvest the rose petals and lavender for potpourri, thus earning contributions to our restoration fund. We have begun with planting purple irises, which are Florence's lily, a gift from an American donor, beneath our great cypresses, and will separate these next year so the original bulbs can propagate. Our gardeners have given us four olive trees in pots and compost rubbish to create topsoil. White marble looks best with green. We should be most grateful for donations to this project, either funds or plants themselves, thus giving back to Florence the world's garden she once had.

Lord Leighton's Florentine Lily,
Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Tomb

The city of Florence has become very interested in our combination of a library with the cemetery and especially in its archives, grreatly appreciating the two exhibitions of sepia photographs and of nineteenth-century books, and are incorporating the catalogues of the library and archive into their system to document this aspect of Florence's history, our international contribution to her.

We have now painted the rusting iron gates at the front and the new, beautifully curving handrails on the steps leading up to them. We welcome you to enter through these gates to visit the Cemetery, where you will step from the twenty-first century with its pollution and roar of traffic, into the nineteenth century with its art, its beauty, its hand-crafted work, its peace, an island in time and in space. We welcome your participation in its restoration.


Elizabeth Barrett Browning's famous marble tomb is crumbling and urgently needs restoration. It was designed by Frederic, Lord Leighton, who had studied at Florence's Accademia di Belle Arti and who became President of the Royal Academy of London. Emily Dickinson wrote about it, having treasured a postcard photograph of it. Alberto Casciani of Meridiana Restauri, who studied with Florence's Opificio delle Pietre Dure, has given us an estimate for its restoration. If there are individuals and organizations interested in participating in this project we should be delighted.

Our petition is at

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Lord Leighton's Florentine Lily,
Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Tomb

I invite you to the Swiss-owned so-called `English` Cemetery in Piazzale Donatello, where we have the tombs (habeas corpi) of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Walter Savage Landor, Arthur Hugh Clough, Isa Blagden, five members of the Trollope household, Fanny, Theodosia Garrow Trollope, Joseph Garrow, Harriet Fisher and Elizabeth Shinner their maid, Hiram Powers, Joel T. Hart, several participants in the Battle of Waterloo, several friends of Florence Nightingale, and many others. We also have a library, with books written by and about these persons and others, and a workshop where we sculpt Elizabeth and Robert`s `Clasped Hands`, bind books by hand, marble paper, etc.

We have two exhibitions in our Gatehouse: one called `Florence in Sepia`, a collection of nineteenth century photographs that were almost burnt in a bonfire by the nuns in my convent, bought by my Mother Foundress in the nineteenth century and taken back to England, illustrating the places written about by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot and Anna Jameson; the other an exhibition of some of our books: Isa Blagden, Poems, 1873; Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lady Geraldine's Courtship, n.d; Sonnets from the Portuguese/Portugalske sonety, trans. Hanna Zantovska, 2001; Sonnets and Ballad (including Hiram Powers` `Greek Slave`), 2004; Aurora Leigh, 1866; The Old Yellow Book: Source of Browning's The Ring and the Book, 1908; Joel Hart, Triumphant Woman; Mrs. [Sophia Peabody] Hawthorne, Notes in England and Italy, 1872; Anna Jameson, Legends of the Monastic Orders as Represented in the Fine Arts, 1891; Walter Savage Landor, Imaginary Conversations, 1886; Frederic Leighton, engravings for George Eliot, Romola; Mrs Oliphant, The Makers of Florence: Dante, Giotto, Savonarola and their City, 1914; Frances Trollope, Domestic Manners of the Americans, 1974, Paris and the Parisians in 1835, 1836; Vienna and the Austrians, 1838; Thomas Adolphus Trollope, What I Remember, 1887; Lilian Whiting, Kate Field, 1900, A Study of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1902.

We have Anna Jameson, Legends of the Monastic Orders, open to the engraving of Filippino's Vision of the Madonna to St Bernard in the Badia, below the sepia photograph of that same painting, which had been in the Palazzo Strozzi at the same time that we exhibited these photographs in the Gabinetto Vieusseux there. We have as well a portfolio of Lord Leighton's painting of the procession through Borgo Allegri of the Cimabue Madonna, and of his engravings for George Eliot's Romola.

Membership in Aureo Anello (referring to the `golden ring` of Elizabeth Barrett Browning`s verse between Italy and England on the Casa Guidi plaque) is through giving its library a book and these books in the exhibition have been given by members from all over the world. We are open Monday mornings, Tuesday-Friday afternoons and you can ring our bell at other times.

We are in the midst of an Emergency Appeal to prevent the `English` Cemetery from being closed and abandoned. You can read about it here and sign the petition `That the English Cemetery be kept open, be restored and be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site`.

The following associations and individuals are on the Honour Committee of the Emergency Appeal for the restoration of the Swiss-owned 'Cimitero Porta a' Pinti', known as the 'English' Cemetery in Florence:

Sir James Ackroyd, England
Alliance of Literary Societies, England
Amici dei Musei Fiorentini, Firenze
Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University, America
Anthony Astbury, The Greville Press, England
Association for Gravestone Studies, America
Jeffrey Begeal, America
Clive Britton, Florence
Brontë Society, England
Browning Society, England
Dame Fiona Caldicott, Principal, Somerville College, Oxford, England
Carolyn Carpenter, America
Timothy Chaplin and Diane Lutz Chaplin, Florence
Chiesa Evangelica Riformata Svizzera, Firenze
Amalia Ciardi Dupré, Firenze
Timothy Collins, England
Leonardo Domenici, Sindaco, Comune di Firenze
Dame Judi Dench, England
English-Speaking Union, America
Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze, Firenze
Gabinetto Vieusseux ‘Centro Romantico’, Firenze
Horace W. Gibson, Florence
Philip Henderson, Lucca
Robert Heylmun, Florence
Historic Gardens Foundation, England
Julia Bolton Holloway, Florence
Gerardo Kraft, Firenze
Landor Society, England
Joanna Lumley, O.B.E.
Moira Macfarlane, British Consul General, Florence
Lapo Mazzei, Firenze
Michael Meredith, Eton College, England
Sir Derek Morris, Provost, Oriel College, England
Priscilla Morss Bayard, Florence
Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate, England
Pre-Raphaelite Society, England
Giannozzo Pucci, Firenze
Luigi di Quintana Bellini Trinchi Principe di Cagnano, Cavaliere di Malta, Roma
Regione Toscana, Firenze
Salvatore Siano, 'Nello Carrara', CNR
Simone Siliani, Assessore alla Cultura, Comune di Firenze, Firenze
Carlo Steinhauslin, Firenze
Sir Roy Strong, England
Mikhail Talalay, Russian Academy of Science, Naples
Aeronwy Thomas, England
Dylan Thomas Society of Great Britain
Trollope Society, England
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Victorian Society, England
Warwickshire Local History Society
Waterloo Committee, Patron, Duke of Wellington, England
Anthony and Diana Webb, England
Timothy Wilson, Ashmolean Museum, England
Sir Franco Zeffirelli, Italy
Mariella Zoppi, Assessore alla Cultura, Regione Toscana, Firenze

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Our petition is at

Un saggio in italiano sul Cimitero 'degli Inglesi' si trova all'indirizzo

Lord Leighton's Florentine Lily,
Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Tomb

For the past few days we have been creating an entry on the Swiss-owned, so-called 'English' Cemetery in Florence for the Wikpedia on-line encyclopedia that we can use in the grant-applying process for restoration funds. You are welcome to edit. This is how it now reads:

The English Cemetery is in Piazzale Donatello, Florence, Italy.

In 1827 the Swiss Evangelical Reformed Church purchased land outside the medieval wall and gate of Porta a' Pinti from Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany for an international and ecumenical cemetery, Russian and Greek Orthodox burials joining the Protestant ones. Prior to that date non-Catholics and non-Jews who died in Florence could only be buried in Livorno. Carlo Reishammner, as a young architectural student, first landscaped the Swiss-owned, so-called 'English' Cemetery, then Giuseppe Poggi shaped it as its present oval when Florence became capital of Italy, surrounding it with great studios for artists, including that of Michele Gordigiani, who painted the portraits of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, now in the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Many famous persons were buried here, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (in a tomb designed by Frederic Lord Leighton), Walter Savage Landor, Arthur Hugh Clough, Fanny Trollope and her daughter-in-law Theodosia Garrow Trollope and three other family members, Isa Blagden, Southwood Smith, Hiram Powers, Joel T. Hart, Fanny, the wife of William Holman Hunt in a tomb he himself sculpted, Mary, the daughter of John Roddam Spencer Stanhope in a tomb he himself sculpted, Louise, sister to Henry Adams, whose dying he describes in his 'Chaos' chapter in The Education of Henry Adams, two children of the Greek painter George Mignaty, whom Robert had paint Casa Guidi as it was when Elizabeth Barrett Browning died there, and Nadezhda De Santis, a black Nubian slave brought to Florence at fourteen from Jean-François Champollion's 1827 expedition to Egypt and Nubia, while the French Royalist exile Félicie de Fauveau sculpted two tombs here.

Giampietro Vieusseux, Swiss, the founder of the Gabinetto Vieusseux of which John Ruskin, Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, and Robert Browning were readers, is also buried here and likewise the Swiss historian Jacques Augustin Galiffe, who with Jean Charles Léonard Simonde de Sismondi pioneered genealogical, archival research. Emily Dickinson treasured a photograph of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's tomb and wrote 'The soul selects her own society' about it, using lines also from EBB's Aurora Leigh. While Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a sonnet on Hiram Powers' sculpture The Greek Slave, which had been at the center of the Crystal Palace Exhibition. Isa Blagden and Theodosia Garrrett Trollope, part East Indian, part Jewish, are models for Miriam in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Marble Faun, while George Mignaty's wife is model for the head of Hiram Powers' Greek Slave. The cemetery is famous, too, as the partial subject of Arnold Boecklin's Island of the Dead, from its burial of his seven-month daughter, Mary. In turn, the composer Sergei Rachmaninoff made use of the painting for his Op. 29, The Isle of the Dead. The cemetery itself is a kind of encyclopedia memorializing the creativity of western culture, from America to Russia, from Scandinavia to Nubia, during Italy's Risorgimento.

Of the many Swiss, Russians and Americans buried here, the English graves are the majority as their community in Florence in the nineteenth century was the largest. The tomb inscriptions are in Hebrew, Greek, Cyrillic, fraktura and Roman scripts, and in many languages, Hebrew, Russian, French, German, Danish, Rumantsch, English, including passages of the Bible in their vernaculars, at that period forbidden to Catholics.

In 1877, the Cemetery had to be closed, the medieval wall having been torn down at the Risorgimento when Florence became capital of Italy, and Code Napoleon, from Roman law, forbidding burials within city limits. At the present day ashes may be interred. Currently, research is being carried out on the burial records in England, Russia and Italy, these being published on the web, the library in the cemetery seeks books written by and about the persons buried here, and an Emergency Appeal is underway to restore the 'English' Cemetery in Florence after 125 years of neglect and abandonment to its former beauty described in Victorian guidebooks and seen in early sepia photographs, particularly those taken by Hiram Powers' son, Longworth Powers, now in the Gabinetto Vieusseux.

Retrieved from ""

Categories: Cemeteries in Italy
Wikipedia entries are needed for the following: Isa Blagden, Félicie de Fauveau, Jacques Augustin Galiffe, Michele Gordigiani, Joel Hart, George Mignaty, Giuseppe Poggi, Carlo Reishammer, Jean Charles Léonard Simonde de Sismondi, Southwood Smith, John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, Theodosia Trollope, Giampietro Vieusseux

Elizabeth Barrett Browning's famous marble tomb is crumbling and urgently needs restoration. It was designed by Frederic, Lord Leighton, who had studied at Florence's Accademia di Belle Arti and who became President of the Royal Academy of London. Emily Dickinson wrote about it, having treasured a postcard photograph of it. Alberto Casciani of Meridiana Restauri, who studied with Florence's Opificio delle Pietre Dure, has given us an estimate for its restoration. If there are individuals and organizations interested in participating in this project we should be delighted.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


Un saggio in italiano sul Cimitero 'degli Inglesi' si trova all'indirizzo

Lord Leighton's Florentine Lily,
Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Tomb

Earlier we said we were garnering support with the petition, which is doing well and which also reflects our international Swiss-owned 'English' Cemetery in Florence, the signatures coming from all over the world. The Italian newspaper, L'Espresso, expressed amazement that we had so many signatures in so short a time. Because we have two petitions going for UNESCO to have it be a World Heritage Site, we are now only 300 signatures short of the thousand for which our thermometre aimed.

Now it is time to seriously raise funds. Aureo Anello has already given 1000,00 euro for the handrails to help the elderly and infirm access the Cemetery.

If we can keep this Cemetery open and have it be restored, there are people willing to purchase lots, 70 centimetres by 70, for the burial of their ashes. We now have eight such requests. It is Catch 22. They will complete these requests only if the Cemetery is to remain open and to be restored. The Cemetery can only remain open and be restored if we can convince its Swiss owners that it is viable for them economically. For too many years it had been their 'White Elephant'. Why their decision to close and abandon it completely.

We also have the promise of the city and regional governments' participation in the total restoration project if we can also obtain private participation, your participation. It shall be possible to recreate what was once a most beautiful monument in Florence and even to spend eternity here, alongside world-famed writers, artists, doctors, preachers, people who helped end slavery, who helped end diseases, who created immortal poetry.

We have set up a petition at