Bellu Cemetery: History, Art and Drama in Bucharest
Bellu Cemetery is one of the most authentic cultural attractions in Bucharest. More off the beaten track than the museums and monuments from the old center, a visit to this cemetery is no doubt one of the best things to do in Bucharest, especially if you’re passionate about history and art and have a soft side for tragic love stories.
The garden of souls from Bellu Cemetery
The history of Bellu Cemetery begins in the second half of the 19th century when local authorities decided to move all cemeteries outside the city because of the increased risk of cholera. It’s the moment when a rich local aristocrat, Barbu Bellu, decided to donate a large vineyard to be used as space for the new cemetery that will carry his name. The monastery of Vacaresti, sadly demolished during the communist regime, also donated a large piece of land with windmills and orange gardens for the same purpose.
Since then, the cemetery gradually became a unique outdoor gallery of impressive funeral sculptures and tombs created by famous artists of the time, almost 200 of them being listed as historical monuments. A symbolic garden of souls where once the garden of oranges was, Bellu Cemetery is a place for meditation and quiet walks on narrow alleys guarded by the memory of those buried here.
Among the best-known sculptures are the works of Rafaello Romanelli representing the couple Poroineanu, allegedly husband and wife, who killed themselves after finding out they were brother and sister, and the statue of Katalina Boschott, a Belgian governess who died after an unsuccessful surgery, buried and mourned by her rich and secret lover. The most important historical monuments include the chapels done by architect Ion Mincu —Cantacuzino, Ghica, Gheorghieff, Lahovary, Tell, Protopopescu —, the monuments of Iulia Hasdeu, Elena Izvoranu, Zoe Slatineanu or Alexandra Falcoianu. More chapels and funeral sculptures rest hidden in the dense network of alleys and small paths.
An Art Deco style chapel built in 1890 resides in the center of the cemetery that extends today on 220,000 square meters. Resembling the Cathedral of Karlsbad, the chapel’s interior paintings were done by two of the best Romanian artists of the time, Dimitrie Belizarie and Arthur Verona.
Bellu Cemetery was included on the list of the Association of Significant Cemeteries in Europe, one more reason to visit it if you’ve already seen famous places like Pere-Lachaise from Paris or Staglieno Cemetery from Genoa. We promise you won’t be disappointed. Plus, you’ll get to see Bucharest beyond the Old Town and the mainstream attractions of the capital.
The easiest way to reach the cemetery by public transportation is the subway. Take the Line 2 to Eroii Revolutiei.
It’s not allowed to take photos without previous written approval.
The Jewish and the Lutheran Cemeteries are right across the boulevard.