Considering I’m such an advocate for green burial and a ‘leave no trace’ mind set, I don’t half love a cemetery.
I was recently lucky enough to visit the beautiful Rakowicki Cemetery in Krakow whilst it was dusted with snow. The cemetery was built in about 1800 but has expanded massively since then. It now covers an area of about 42 hectares. Those 42 hectares are looking pretty crowded. Every inch of space has been utilised and there are still people being buried there today.
Rakowicki cemetery is of huge historical and artistic importance. It contains the work of some incredible architects and there are parts of it that feel like a miniature village.
The atmosphere is lighter than I’ve experienced in some of the English cemeteries I’ve visited. This might be because almost all the graves seem well-tended and cared for. Even the very old and crumbling graves have flowers and candles on them. It’s beautiful to see that people are still remembering and caring for those who died well over a hundred years before they were even born. In England we have let so many historical graves fall into ruin.
As I mentioned before, the cemetery is still very much in use and a funeral was taking place whilst I was visiting. I paused to watch the procession go past. It was so beautiful and tranquil. Three men lead the group singing hauntingly beautiful hymns. Their voices carried over the whole cemetery through the crisp air. They were followed by a golf buggy which was carrying the coffin. I imagine that it’s a long walk to the grave through such a vast cemetery and shouldering a coffin on the icy paths is a recipe for disaster. The coffin itself had a pink lace frill around the outside and was covered in floral tributes. Mourners followed the coffin carrying wreaths. I did not follow the procession but I did come across another new grave drowned in fresh floral tributes. What an incredible sight!
Another common feature of the cemetery were the glass candle lamps. These can be bought from a stall outside the cemetery for anything between about £1 – £4. They also sell them in most of the supermarkets and drug stores. I have to admit to becoming mildly obsessed with them, especially the Christmas tree ones. One or two (or three…) may have made it into my hand luggage.
There are so many interesting memorials. I wish I had space to include them all here but I’ll just show you guys some of my favourites.
I’ve never seen crosses like this before. The weathering adds another layer of beauty to them.
This little ‘house’ is so charming. The way the snow highlights the detail on the roof is super gorgeous.
I’m a sucker for a portrait on a memorial and I love the simplicity of this obelisk.
I was really intrigued by this memorial. It was surrounded by fairly heavy weight tombs and looked so out of place. I couldn’t see any information on it but the candle shows that someone is still looking out for whoever is enjoying their apres life here.
I saw a couple of these ‘teeth’ memorials. They remind me of shark jaws and were a real contrast to smooth stone and marble on the surrounding graves.
There is so much to see and explore in Rakowicki cemetery and I highly recommend a trip. The atmosphere, architecture and history make it a very special place.
Have you been to Rakowicki in a different season? I’d love to hear about how the cemetery looks and feels in the summer.
Don’t forget to subscribe to The Winding Sheet blog and follow us on these jazzy things: