The non-Catholic Dead in Rome

Catholic church law forbids Protestants to be buried in Catholic churches or on consecrated ground.

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In Rome, non-Catholics, at least as far back as 1716, were allotted a place of their own by the Pope of the time. A patch outside the Aurelian walls and in front of the Pyramid of Cestius was set aside by Pope Clement XI.

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Initially those that required the services of the cemetery were non-Catholic members of the Stuart Court in exile from England. This was ironic as they were in exile for being a Catholic house when Presbyterianism was being established as the state religion with Catholics excluded from the British throne. James Stuart himself is buried in the crypt of St Peters Basilica.

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The other group in need were those on their grand tour. Lord Chesterfield addresses why they may have cause for it, viewing them as, “a number of idle, sauntering, illiterate English, as there commonly is there, living entirely with one another, supping, drinking, and sitting up late at each other’s lodgings; commonly in riots and scrapes, when drunk ; and never in good company when sober.”

In 1821 the new Il cimitero acattolico di Roma (già cimitero degli Inglesi, o anche “cimitero dei protestanti” was opened after the Pope forbade further burials in front of the Pirimide.

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The new cemetery is adjacent to the old and joined by paths, but walled. It was enlarged a couple of times attaining its current size by 1894. A chapel was built there in 1898. It has special protection as a zone of national and cultural importance.

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More than anything, it is cool, calm and peaceful and incredibly beautiful. A salve against the Roman summer heat.

And of course, the cats love it.

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4 thoughts on “The non-Catholic Dead in Rome

    1. Thanks Anna, it was a really nice experience spending a little time with you in Rome. Wonderful to connect with someone who feels a bit like me on many fronts especially a passion for Italy. Keep in touch and let’s meet again one day in Italy. Actually, when I’m living there and running my thriving business would be good 🙂

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