Thursday, March 5, 2015

Funerary Art in Budapest. The Kerpesi Cemetery.

The Kerspesi Cemetery was opened in 1847 and was closed in 1952 by the Communists.  Many important artists and political figures have been buried there.  In some cases, bodies have been reinterred in Kerpesi after the fall of Communism.  The cemetery is one of the largest in Europe and is laid out like a beautifully maintained.  park.  There are many kinds of tombstones and monuments in Kerpesi Cemetary, but the ones which drew our attention most were the often startlingly dramatic statuary of the Art Nouveau and Secessionist period.  The tomb above was sculpted by Miklos Ligeti, a then-famous Hungarian sculptor who studied with Rodin and about whom virtually nothing is known.  The sculpture drew us because of the visceral physicality and humanity of the man being led into the tomb and the benign but unassailable expression of the angel who directs him.

There are many other monuments that similarly human in their focus.  The overwhelming feeling is not transcendence of spirit but the fear and sadness of human loss.

We only saw about a quarter of Kerpesi Cemetary.  We left because we had read that the Jewish part of the cemetery was at the other end separated by a wall from the main cemetery.  We walked for a while looking for a road called Salgotarjani Utca.  Eventually we came to a corner but the road was unmarked.  We turned the corner and walked for a while but did not see an entrance.  Not sure if this was the right road, we decided to go home and consult a better map and return.  When we got home, we discovered that the Salgotarjani Cemetary does not appear on any map in any guidebook we have.  It doesn't even appear on the map of the Kerpesi Cemetary we were handed (for free) when we entered.  The Salgotarjani Cemetary has been abandoned for many years.  It was where Reform and Conservative (Nelogue and Status Quo, but not Orthodox) Jews were buried for many years.  Eventually a larger cemetery was opened on Kozma Utca.  We plan to see the Kozma cemetary, which is mentioned in many tour guides.  But we are also determined to see the one that fell off the map on Salgotarjani.  Expect an update reporting what we found.  


  1. Not the same, but we tried to see the Jewish Cemetery in Pisa, but could only look through the fence. Unlike the Budapest cemetery, it is (supposedly) open at a specific time and day, but access is very limited.

  2. It wasn't so much that it wasn't open. We couldn't find it, and it's not marked on a map. We now have a specific address (rather than a vague "it's behind the other cemetary, separated by a wall") and a description of how to get there. Whether it will be open when we find it, is another question.