When we decided in 2014 to travel to Europe, I was a little bit hesitant to suggest that first on my list were a couple of graveyards that I had wanted to visit for years. We were traveling with friends, and I wasn’t too sure how they’d react, so I bumped them down on my list, from number one to maybe number three or four so I wouldn’t appear too macabre. Happily, they were on board with my plan, so we were able to visit all of them. So here they are, in no particular order, because I apparently have no ability to organize anything today:
Old Jewish Cemetery, Prague, Czech Republic: Served as a cemetery from early 15th century until 1787 (the date on the final headstone). Over the years, lack of space, combined with respect for the deceased (which does not allow for the moving of graves) a new layer of soil was added, and the bodies buried on top of the preexisting graves. There are places within the cemetery that the graves are believed to be up to 12 layers, the headstones have been moved upwards with each subsequent burial, which is why the headstones are so densely packed together.
Many of the headstones had small stones, coins or other markers on them, tokens of respect, or markers of a visitation.
In Bavaria, Germany this was a small graveyard we passed somewhere between Oberammergau and Fussen on a day trip. It was nestled in a valley between two mountains next to a beautiful lake.
The Petersfriedhof, Salzberg, Austria dates back to about 700 AD, when St. Peter’s Abbey was founded by St. Rupert. This graveyard is nestled in between the abbey, and the Festungsberg Mountain. There is a series of catacombs that are accessed by a narrow set of stone steps leading to a hollowed out chapel.
You have to climb these narrow stone steps up into the catacombs- in the Maximus Chapel at the top, there is an arched grave of a saint located in the catacombs:
As close as I can translate, this is what is inscribed:
“The year of three hundred seventy King Rhuteni Geppidorum Gothe Hfruli beat the Hungarians and his company Maximus fifty this cave into hiding because of the promise of confession, the collapse of the spirit of daring in the provinces of Noricum, too, are destroyed with fire and the sword.”
Obviously this is a rough translation, however, I couldn’t find any other translations of this stone panel. St. Maximus was the first archbishop of Salzberg known by name (d. 476). Many of these graveyards were associated with a chapel, a synagogue, or a cathedral, which I’ll blog about at a later time. Next week though, is Graveyards, Part III, the second part of the European Edition. Thanks for reading this far!