Paths of Glory

Over half the funerary monuments in Bagni di Lucca’s English cemetery (also embracing non-English and non-Catholics) have now been restored thanks to the energy of Dr. Marcello Cherubini, chair of the Fondazione Michel de Montaigne. To celebrate this event, with the renovation of the four most recent tombs, a presentation and a concert were held last Saturday.

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(Members of the Vicariato della Val di Lima at the entrance of the English cemetery)

Of the restored monuments surely the most impressive is the chapel of Gentilizia Pisani which is attributed to the Lucchese sculptor Giuseppe Baccelli (1883-1932). The chapel, built with allusions to art-deco style, is impressively coated with stripes of white and grey marble, most of which still remain with only a couple of small sections requiring restoration (done in white cement so that it’s clearly visible what is original and what is not.) Inside the chapel there’s a bas relief of Elizabeth Hana Pisani together with her remains. Also restored is the tomb of Edward Newberry, one of the founders of the Anglican cemetery in 1842 and, indeed, the first person to be inhumed there.

It may be argued that in the present Italian situation money should be spent on restoring houses of the living rather than on those of the dead but I believe that anyone visiting the cemetery now will find not only thoughts for reflection but a historical monument of which Bagni di Lucca can truly be proud.

One is invited to adopt any of the remaining tombs for restoration. Each repaired burial monument bears the names(s) of those  who gave funds so, in a paradoxical way, you can admire your own tombstone while you still have your feet firmly planted on the earth.

The concert given by the Florence Cello Ensemble, a sextet of violoncelli all of whom graduated from Florence’s Cherubini conservatoire, was a  ravishing pleasure combining items of elegiac character such as the third movement of Elgar’s ‘cello concerto and Puccini’s Crisantemi with livelier pieces like Debussy’s Cakewalk and Verdi’s overture to I Masnadieri.

Both characters were combined in Paganini’s variations of the prayer from his opera Mosè.

The cemetery in my option, has achieved new life, (if that isn’t an oxymoron), not only in the Christian belief of an existence after death but in the beautiful appearance it now presents.

Landscaped with that quintessential tree of the dead since Etruscan times, the cypress, all that the cemetery requires is that the adjoining factory’s abominable rear extension could somehow be disguised, or since it appears disused, be demolished, for it sorely impinges on the serenity of the whole area of God’s field

One of the sadly surprising features is how many of those buried here were young. Like so many others, those who lie in this tranquil corner of Bagni di Lucca came here with health problems and held a final faith in the curative qualities of the town’s thermal waters.   However, their final faith came from their Redeemer.

As one of our great poets wrote:

…All that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour,
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.


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