Many people ask for those “off-the-beaten-path sites” to see in Rome… and this is one. Called The Non-Catholic Cemetery for Foreigners in Testaccio, Rome (yep, that’s the full name), it is also known as the Protestant Cemetery, the English Cemetery, Campo Cestio, or simply, the Non-Catholic Cemetery.
It contains the graves of many Orthodox Christians, Muslims, Jews and other non-Christians. The cemetery originated in 1732, making it one of the oldest non-Catholic burial grounds in Europe. The most famous tombs are those of John Keats, Percy Shelley and multiple authors, painters, actors, sculptors, scholars, and diplomats. Goethe’s only son, and Antonio Gramsci, one of the founding fathers of European Communism are buried here. Quite a diverse group. You can spend hours wandering through this beautiful location.
The cemetery is located next to the pyramid of Caius Cestius (Caio Cestio), a magistrate in Ancient Rome. The pyramid is a marker for many Romans. It was finished about 12 BC and built to serve as the tomb for Cestius. During the building of the Aurelian walls between 271 and 275 AD, the Pyramid was incorporated into the walls of the city. If you walk around the area around the cemetery you’ll see those ancient walls.
The cemetery is also bordered by high walls, and when you walk inside it, the din of the city seems to die off. It is one of the most peaceful and quiet places in the city. It’s an amazing transition to go from the noise and traffic of the Piramide Metro station to this peaceful sanctuary. You’re surrounded by the walls, the old cypress trees, and multiple statues. Shelley wrote about this cemetery, where he buried his friend, John Keats, “It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place.”
How can you get to the Cemetery? The address is Via Caio Cestio, 6 – 00153 Roma. The cemetery is open Monday – Saturday from 09:00 – 17:00. On Sundays and holidays, the cemetery hours are from 09:00 – 13:00. Entry is allowed up until 30 minutes prior to the closing hour. Use the map below and utilize the descriptions and options:
The Piramide Metro Station. This is a Metro Line B station. If you are coming from downtown on Metro Line B – from Roma Termini, Cavour, Colosseo, or the Circo Massimo metro locations, then you would head towards Laurentina. If you’re coming from the EUR area, you would head in the direction, Rebibbia. Once you get to the station, head out the front exit and directly towards the Pyramid. There is a street on the right side – follow it around past the pyramid. Then you’ll turn LEFT onto Via Caio Cestio.
In this picture, this is the view looking back towards the Metro station, which is designated by the red arrow. The yellow arrow marks the exit from the Roma Porta San Paolo station (#4 on the map). The blue circle is where the Porta San Paolo bus stops are (#5).
The Roma Osteinse Train Station. The 3rd largest train station in the city of Rome, it is a stop for the FR1, FR3 and FR5 trains. If you arrive here by train you can walk out the front doors and head to Viale delle Cave Ardeatina. You can’t see the Pyramid from this street initially, but if you keep walking down this street, you’ll see it. I think a better, and easier way might be to follow the signs from Roma Ostiense station towards the Piramide Metro station. You’ll walk though passageways connecting the two stations. Then follow the instructions in #2 above.
Roma Porta San Paolo station on the Rome-Lido railway line. Often, people do not realize that there are actually two train stations, a bus depot, and a Metro station here. The Roma Porta San Paolo station is your rail connection to Ostia Antica and the beaches at Ostia. It starts here and ends at Station C. Colombo, out near the Ostia beach. If you arrive on this train from say, Ostia Antica, you would walk to the end of the platform and head directly out toward the Pyramid. Once outside, follow the directions in #2.
Porta San Paolo Bus Stop. Directly in front of the Piramide Metro station is a large bus depot. Many buses start and end their routes here. From these bus stops, you’re directly across the street from the Pyramid, so again, follow the directions in #2 above.
This is the Pyramid of Caio Cestio… your marker to get to the cemetery. Once you are in the cemetery, you’ll see this from the back side. We’ll show you this picture later in the article.
Burial location for John Keats. You’ll see this – almost directly behind the Pyramid – once you are inside the walls of the cemetery.
MARMORATA/CAIO CESTIO Bus stop on Via Mamorata. This stop, on the side of the road closest to the cemetery, would be from buses coming from Trastevere, the Vatican area, and Prati. When you exit the bus,, turn left as you step off the bus and head to the next street, turn right and you’re on Via Caio Cestio, the road the cemetery entrance is on. Walk a couple hundred meters and you’ll see the entrance on the left side of the street.
MARMORATA/CAIO CESTIO Bus stop on the opposite side of Via Mamorata. From here you would have to cross the street to get to the Cemetery. Buses include the 3-75-23-60-95-280-30-175.
View Campo Cestio, the Non-Catholic Cemetery in a larger map
From the cemetery website, “According to the ecclesiastical laws of the Catholic Church, Protestants can be buried neither in Catholic churches nor in consecrated ground. Non-Catholic burial places came into use comparatively early in some much-visited Italian harbour cities, such as Livorno (from 1598) and Venice (from 1684). The Cemetery for non-Catholics in Rome dates back to at least 1732 when records show that papal land was dedicated to bury the remains of non-Catholic foreigners, mostly Protestants from northern Europe who could not be buried in consecrated ground in Rome.”
Scenes from the Cemetery
Looking from the Keat’s grave towards the Pyramid of Caio CestioThe Captain of HMBS Najad pays tribute to five of his men lost off the coast of Italy, a Fiumicino in 1825.HERE RESTS IN PEACE
OUR BELOVED MOTHER
Born STUTTGART 27 JULI 1870
Died ROME 23 MARCH 1943
Johannes Carsten Hauch (May 12, 1790 – March 4, 1872), was a Danish Poet born to Danish parents living in Norway. As an initial period of failures, he turned to novel-writing, and published in succession five romances Vilhelm Zabern (1834); The Alchemist (1836); A Polish Family (1839); The isle on the Rhine (1845); and Robert Fulton (1853). In 1848 his dramatic talent was at its height, and he produced one admirable tragedy after another; among these may be mentioned Svend Grathe (1841); The Sisters at Kinnekullen (1849); Marshal Sag (1850); Honour Lost and Won (1851) and Tycho Brahe’s Youth (1852). In 1862 he wrote the historical epic of Valdemar Seir, volumes which contain his best work. He died in Rome in 1872.
These three pictures mark the final resting place for Percy Bysshe Shelley (4 August 1792 – 8 July 1822) and his long-time friend, Edward John Trelawny (13 November 1792 – 13 August 1881). Shelly was one of the major English Romantic poets and is critically regarded among the finest lyric poets in the English language. Shelley was famous for his association with John Keats and Lord Byron. The novelist Mary Shelley (Frankenstein) was his second wife. On 8 July 1822, less than a month before his 30th birthday, Shelley drowned in a sudden storm while sailing back from Livorno to Lerici in his schooner, Don Juan. This is is his second gravesite. The first was deemed unworthy by Trelawny, his good friend, and Trelawny purchased this new plot and the spot adjacent to Shelley’s gravesite. Sixty years after Shelley’s death, Trelawny was buried next to his friend. At his request, these lines were carved on his tombstone:
These are two friends whose lives were undivided.
So let their memory be now they have glided
Under the grave: let not their bone be parted
For their two hearts in life were single-hearted.
The Cats in the Cemetery
In the cemetery is a cat sanctuary. Many visitors are aware of the cat sanctuary at the ruins of Largo Argentina, but there’s also a fairly large population of cats wandering through the cemetery.
John Keats burial site
These three pictures represent the gravesite of John Keats, an English Romantic poet born October 31, 1795. He died quite young of tuberculosis on February 23, 1821. Bordered by high walls and off in a corner, it is a surprisingly quiet spot. Outside the streets are clogged with traffic, but you can sit on a bench near Keat’s grave and it seems quiet and peaceful. The top picture is a plaque on the cemetery walls honoring Keats. Next you see his grave and that of John Severn. The inscription on Keats’ tomstone reads as follows:
This Grave contains all that was mortal, of a Young English Poet, who on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his heart, at the Malicious Power of his enemies, desired these words to be Engraven on his Tomb Stone:
Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water.
It is believed that Keats wanted only the phrase, “Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water” on his tombstone. The additional text was added by Joseph Severn, who nursed him through his last illness, and Keats’s closest friend, Charles Brown. Both were displeased by the negative treatment and criticism of Keat’s works during his life. Years later, both men came to regret their malicious and bitter words.
A wonderful and inspiring site to visit. Perhaps slightly different as compared to the busy, overcrowded tourist attractions. Yet, this is one of our favorite spots. Enjoy!
Office: Via Caio Cestio, 6
Tel: + 39 06 574 1900
Fax: + 39 06 574 1320
Header: Via Caio Cestio – Photo by António Vieira
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