Sunday, 12 April 2015

Looking for my Family in the City of the Dead

Cimatero - Genoa

The hillside, among the tombs. A wonderful place to spend the day
My Italian great-grandmother is a mystery.  All I know about her is her name - Francesca Maria Theresa Nogaro - and not even that is certain.  Although she was always known as Fanny, her christian names could be in a different order.  And then there's the spelling of the surname.  The family were fairly sure that was how she wrote it when they entered it on the death certificate, but no one knew for sure.

The rest is legend.  She was supposed to have been the daughter of a ships' Chandler and my great-grandfather, who was the captain of a ship, apparently fell in love with her on the quayside, married her and transported her to England within the space of three weeks.  My grandfather used to talk about the cousins he had in Genoa - his mother was still in touch with them at that time - but after she died the family connection was broken.
Woman mourning her husband.

A teardrop beautifully carved.
So, being in Italy for Easter, I decided it was time to visit the old cemetery in Genoa to see if I could find any of my relatives.  My gt grandmother was born in the 1860s so surely some of the family would have died there?  But I hadn't realised just how big Cimatero is.  It's the size of a city and has a similar population, though they're all very quiet.

More modern interments are on the roof - these are repositories for ashes.

In the main building, there are endless corridors piled high on either side with the dead in their marble drawers.

And you are walking on crypts underfoot too.  Some of them a little wobbly.  You have to watch where you tread. Someone here must have had a nasty surprise!

The sculpture on some of the tombs is amazing.  This was Neil's main interest - particularly as some of the work was carried out in Pietrasanta by the skilled artisans and sculptors that have worked in this small marble town for hundreds of years.  Here are just a few of the most spectacular.





The quality of the carving and the detail is amazing.  This one was of a young woman standing outside a door with a symbolic egg-timer on it.  Every minute detail of her clothing - even her wedding ring - was perfectly carved.





Out on the hillside there are avenues of family tombs like little houses.

Some of the more modest family tombs.
Some of them are very posh, with iron railings and chapels and stained glass windows.  Many of them have not been maintained for years, presumably because the families have moved away, died out, or simply run out of money.
This is the rather neglected exterior of one chapel tomb. 

This is the interior, taken through the broken door. 
We had a picnic somewhere in the cypress groves, on the steps of a grand mausoleum.



Sadly, even among the more modern graves, I found no record of my gt grandmother's family.  But it would have been like looking for a needle in a haystack.  Next time I will have to consult the official records first!  Every grave is numbered, so someone, somewhere in the Great Italian Bureaucracy must know who is buried where.

The more modern dead in their marble drawers. I love the photographs. 

No comments:

Post a Comment