Foto: Marco Ferrari
Genova, Cimitero di Staglieno
“L’ultimo bacio” di Luigi Orengo
Sepolcro di Maria Francesca Delmas
Like a beautiful flower, sweet-smelling and too delicate, Maria Francesca Delmas passed away at the age of 25 in a car accident. In her portrait chiseled by Luigi Orengo, she receives “the last kiss”. Her delicate head is dropped into the hands of her lover, her eyes are closed. She seems to be asleep. The Staglieno Cemetery, in Genoa, bursts with love.
People love each other also in Verona, in secret like Romeo and Juliet, or naked and voracious like the man and the woman who are blessed – they are, indeed – by a wide audience. They cling to each other aloft, without ever changing their position; below, a stretch of graves, tombstones and flowers: the most beautiful view of the Monumental Cemetery.
At Père-Lachaise, in Paris, Fernand Arbelot is better known for his grave than for his achievements in life. Almost nobody remembers him as a musician, actor or architect. But many people know his last wish: to contemplate the face of his wife forever. His tomb represents a recumbent man holding a female head in his hands – only the head. Eye to eye, endlessly.
The love story between lady J.C.P.H. Van Aefferden and general J.W.C. van Gorcum was thwarted by religious divisions: she was a Catholic and he was a Protestant. In the Roermond cemetery, in the Netherlands, their tombs were erected on both sides of a wall, each one in the right faction. But – how amazing! – they tower aloft to overcome architectural barriers and a hand reaches out from inside each of them. Two stone hands that have been touching since 1888, regardless of what the Church, or the Churches, may think.
And then Dante Gabriel Rossetti, ah… he loved Elizabeth Siddal so much that he turned her into Ophelia, Beatrix, the ideal of love and beauty themselves… When Elizabeth died, struck down by a laudanum overdose, she was buried in the Highgate Cemetery, in London, with a book of poems that her husband had dedicated to her (O Thou who at Love’s hour ecstatically / Unto my heart dost evermore present / Clothed with his fire, thy earth his testament). Seven years later, the coffin was opened to retrieve the book, and Dante found his Beatrix as beautiful as ever, with her red hair even longer.
How much love, besides death, how many tragic, tender or intense stories are told by cemeteries. So much macabre eroticism is witnessed by our eyes as we walk among the graves. At times, we realize that “till death do us part” is a meaningless sentence, because love goes beyond: it lives in two hands held out over a wall, two bodies interlaced from a balcony above, two pairs of eyes lost in mutual contemplation. Eros and Thanatos. Eternity is meant for both.