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