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Staglieno and its history

 

 

The cemetery of Staglieno was officially opened to the public on small the 1st of January, 1851. At this date the cemetery was still unfinished, however its aspect – architectural, functional and symbolic – was already defined.

In 1835 the Civil Architect Carlo Barabino was appointed to design a cemetery which had to comply with the functional requirements and, above all, which had to be central and monumental.
Carlo Barabino played a great role in outlining Genoa’s Neoclassical aspect: he was responsible for the planning of its new city center and for the construction of public buildings, such as Carlo Felice Theatre, Academy Palace, Mental Hospital, etc.
However he was unable to carry through his task with regard to Staglieno, because he died in the same year in a cholera epidemic that claimed many victims in Genoa, so his pupil and co-worker Giovanni Battista Resasco (1798-1871), whose project was approved in 1840, was tasked to develop the final design.
The construction works began in 1844 in Villa Vaccarezza, locality Staglieno, in the Bisagno Valley, not far from the city center, in an area which was poorly inhabited.
Resasco maintained from Barabino’s project the quadrangular structure as the basic nucleus, accentuating its monumental characteristics. The impact of this architectural combination was greatly felt by contemporaries, who, on entering the main entrance, found themselves immersed in a vast scenery, consisting of a succession of monumental arcades, ending with the imposing architecture of the Pantheon, a structure with a circular base (25 meters diameter) accessible by a 22 meters wide staircase.
Between the 60s and the 80s the whole structure of the cemetery was completed. The natural background emphasized the monumental aspect of Staglieno: the Pantheon, surrounded by the upper arcades and connected to the lower ones by means of the monumental staircase, stood out against the green hills behind it – the area of Boschetti (Groves) and Valletta Pontasso – which, covered by a thick vegetation, housed chapels and monuments scattered about and half-hidden amongst the greenery. They were destined to became even more numerous during the last decades of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century (the tombs of Giuseppe Mazzini and of many other protagonists of the Risorgimento are in this area).
With the passing of time a greater integration with the natural scenery has been reached both for the growing vegetation and for some enlargements, behind the central nucleus, which had even more specific naturalistic features, such as those for the non-Catholic area and for the English Cemetery, which were transferred to Staglieno during the last decades of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.
Staglieno became a successful prototype: Resasco’s project combined the structure of a cemetery with a Neoclassical architecture of Mediterranean tradition, based on the scheme of a geometrical arcade (with the passing of time it became even more characteristic as a gallery of monuments, which had its ancient example in Pisa’s burial ground), and that of a cemetery amongst a natural setting, more typical, after the 40s, of Northern Europe (one of the first examples was Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris).
The industrial and commercial growth of Genoa, which during those years was becoming one of the most important cities of Northern Italy, made such works inevitable. Resasco proposed in 1868 the construction, north-eastward, of a new semi-circular arcade (a similar one would have been erected later in a symmetrical position); such additions were made during the 90’s and the north-eastern semicircular arcade became soon a monumental gallery, with art nouveau and art deco works.
Throughout its history, the cemetery’s growth remained a constant problem, which lead to several enlargements of the arcades (especially the frontal ones) at different times and to other new expansion lines: in the Veilino valley (in which the non-Catholic area has been expanded) were erected the Porticato Montino (Montino Arcade, about 1925), rich in art deco works and other works in the style of the 20th century; on the uphill side, the Sacrario ai caduti della prima Guerra mondiale (Sanctuary to the Fallen in the First World War, 1935-36) and, after the Second World War, the Porticato S. Antonino (St. Antonino Arcade; the works began in 1937, but it was inaugurated in 1955), which was the last intervention with monumental ambitions.