Saturday, August 07, 2010


A landmark en passant (Part II)
Sunday, June 6, 2010 - 6:18 PM | posted by Joelle Edwards

More than 120 years after its 1877 closure, the ‘English Cemetery’ of Florence had fallen into a derelict state. Tombstones were unstable and cypresses were falling.

Permission for a restoration project was officially granted in 1997, when the city of Florence also approved 500 new loculi (burial plots) for ashes or small caskets of bones. The cemetery re-opened, albeit in a state of disrepair.

Since 2000, Julia Bolton Holloway, a renowned scholar and custodian of Florence’s English Cemetery, has fought to keep the gates open and restore the original charm of a place described in the nineteenth century as ‘a most beautiful garden.’ Over the past 10 years, she has supported the site through difficult times, rescuing it from ruin and threats of permanent closure. Founding the Aureo Anello Association, she launched a campaign to save the cemetery, and with the support of worldwide admirers of the cemetery, the Friends of the Cemetery was born, and members set to work on a long-overdue restoration.

Reading - in the rain - inscriptions about water from the Bible that Holman Hunt sculpted on his wife's tomb. [This tomb now carefully cleaned.]

One of Holloway’s first challenges was to convince the Swiss owners that keeping the cemetery open would be economically viable, so she began to gather requests to purchase lots. She also paid for handrails at the main entrance staircase and for the restoration of several tombs. Because she could not personally support the restoration, she began to seek donations. To do that, raising awareness is paramount.

Julia at English Cemetery in Florence...To put the cemetery ‘on the map,’ Holloway has used not only her contagious enthusiasm for the site and her powers of persuasion, but also her skills as a scholar. In 2005, she created a Wikipedia entry and an Internet blog to support the Emergency Appeal for restoration of the Cemetery. The oversight committee is impressive: in addition to film director Franco Zeffirelli (Tea with Mussolini), members include the Brontë Society, Browning Society, Dylan Thomas Society of Great Britain, Trollope Society, Gabinetto Vieusseux Centro Romantico, Regione Toscana, British Consul General and Gerardo Kraft, president of the Swiss Reformed Evangelical Church (which bought the land for the cemetery in 1827)

The projects on Holloway’s to-do list include repairing tombstones; preserving the nineteenth-century ironwork and gates; creating a park facility; stabilising the bases of tombs; repairing the north wall; laying new pathways to enable visitors to reach more graves safely; and replanting the gardens with shallow-rooted native and non-invasive plants.

[Of that list the following now are done: many tombstones conserved; all the ironwork conserved; all the lead letters that had gone missing now replaced; bases of tombs stabilized except for three; new pathways created; the garden replanted - though we could do with donations of more non-invasive root plants like bulbs, lavender, etc. JBH]

To continue to raise awareness about the cemetery, Holloway has invited groups to stage events there. On May 23, for example, a group of second-year theatre students from the Tedavi Production Company performed E. L. Masters’ Spoon River Anthology amidst the graves, reciting epitaph monologues as the public walked between them. All donations went to the Emergency Appeal.


Piazzale Donatello 38, Florence
Weekdays only: Monday, 9-noon;
Tuesday to Friday, 3pm-6pm (summer) 2pm- 5pm (winter)

The effort to save the ‘Overseas Poets Corner,’ as poet laureate Andrew Motion once called it, includes not only Hollway’s tireless work but also the contributions of private donors, along with the cemetery’s earnings as a burial site. Some friends adopt a tomb and pay to maintain its garden. No gift is too small, Holloway notes. (Contribute to the restoration of the English Cemetery with the PayPal link on the Aureo Anello Association website:
In addition to monetary donations, Holloway, requests plants: roses, plumbago, daffodil bulbs and any English flowers with non-invasive roots.

See also the following:

Cemetery website and register:

Wikipedia site:,_Florence

Library website:

Cemetery blog for latest news:

See Part I of the article in

See also Part I published in:

(Article by Joëlle Edwards, Florence, London)

Joëlle Edwards is an English event and wedding planner, working in exclusive venues across Italy. She recently moved to Florence from London after having lived and worked in Switzerland, Palermo and Barcelona. She’d like to sing like Fiorella Mannoia, write like Andrea Camilleri, dance like Ginger Rogers and cook like zia Anna Maria! You can reach her at


The New York Review of Books
Visiting Elizabeth Barrett Browning
December 18, 2008
by Robert F. Ober Jr.
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To the Editors:

Readers might be interested to know that Florence’s English cemetery, where Elizabeth Barrett Browning is buried, gladly welcomes visitors. While the cemetery could benefit from an infusion of funds (many tombs, some of which date from shortly after its opening in 1828, have weathered poorly), an Anglican nun, Julia Bolton Holloway, unselfishly cares for its grounds and continues to collect, in its gatehouse, books relating to the notables—including Americans—buried there. (Ms. Holloway is an EBB scholar, having edited, with her late father, the 1995 Penguin Classics edition of the poet’s works.) The cemetery is somewhat off the touristic track (non-Catholics could not be buried within Florence’s now-vanished walls), but is still a mere quarter-hour ride from the Duomo, at Piazzale Donatello, 38. More information can be found at or directly from Ms. Holloway:

Robert F. Ober Jr.
Sharon, Connecticut

Friday, August 06, 2010


Although Wyclef Jean was not allowed to run for President of Haiti he had the right idea, on the need for literacy for his people.


Haiti and Romania seem far apart yet are not. One is black, the other white. But in Romania, as in Haiti, much of the population were enslaved, in Romania these being the Roma, the 'gypsies' who had come from India a thousand years ago with their ancestral skills. The duration of enslavement of the Roma to nobles and monasteries was from the Middle Ages until the nineteenth century when Uncle Tom's Cabin was translated into Romanian. In both countries the slaves, even when freed, were denied decent housing, work with dignity, education. The two far-apart countries run a very close parallel to each other.

These are suggestions for Wyclef Jean, learned from the Roma of Romania begging in the streets of Florence.

I. The most important unit is the family.

II. Be sure that each family can have land to build on and on which to grow food.

III. Immediately import tents, wood house kits, and other earthquake-proof building materials not available within the country for Haitian families. Create work building these as well as Buckminster Fuller domes for schools and hospitals.
IV. Make sure that each family can conserve water with drainpipes and cisterns.

V. China now fabricates inexpensive solar kits that can run a light and recharge telephones and even a small laptop. Give each family independence from centralized power.

VI. Pay the older more infirm members of families who do know how to read and write to teach all those who do not.

VII. Have the families create their textbooks, publishing these on the Web with their drawings that can be downloaded for use. Have these textbooks share information on how to build houses, how to conserve water, how to grow food, how to prevent illness. Have teaching be in their dialect paired with globally dominant languages using colour-coded bilingual/multilingual texts. See,,,

VIII. In the midst of the earthquake, despite their poverty, Haitians were beautifully dressed. Encourage local dressmakers to produce clothing in cottage industries so they can care, at the same time, for the children, rather than working in factories, 50% being for fellow Haitians, 50% for export.

I & II are true for Haiti and the Roma.

III, IV, V, VI, VIII are needful for Haiti and for the Roma.

Always combine work and study. Education, especially of women, is the cheapest and best investment a nation can make towards its development and well-being. At the same time the education in the home of building, farming, sewing and other skills needs equal respect and is of equal value to the formal education acquired in schools.

Our project for the Roma in Romania, submitted to the 'Decade of Roma Inclusion' of the Open Society Institute in Budapest, is called 'Home Building, Home Schooling,' and is suggested as the foundation for obtaining work in the European Union of which the Romanian Roma are citizens. It uses the concepts of Pestalozzi, Montessori, Fanon, Freire and Milani. Switzerland was a poor country which became rich through educating its citizens.