I usually try to avoid going to cemeteries on Sundays, as I know this will be a day when there will be many mourners and other visitors there to visit and tend to graves. Since I like to be as unobtrusive as possible, I find that going any other day of the week to be preferred. However, I had limited time in Cologne, which meant that I had no choice about when I could visit.
As this is still a working cemetery, I knew that there would be visitors, but I was actually kind of shocked by how many there were. No matter what small path I went down, there always seemed to be someone there, even in the older sections. The large paths near the centre were particularly busy, and I have to admit feeling awkward pulling my camera out. Yet interestingly, by the late morning/early afternoon, the visitors were replaced with (German) tourists there on guided tours. I’m assuming the cemetery offers them, as there were numerous tours all visiting the same sites again and again, and I often found people secretly leaving the tours when the talks got a little too long. At that point it seemed like everyone had a camera, and in many ways I felt a bit silly for feeling so self-conscious earlier, as this is clearly on the tourist trail, much like Pere Lachaise is in Paris.
The main path down the centre of the cemetery has the grandest of all the monuments, and for many I wish that I could actually get closer to them or walk around them (in many cases it was difficult or impossible). Partly that was due to the fact that I don’t like using zoom lenses, so getting closer is often a must. As it was, many of the shots were straight on, which I do regardless, but I often like to get other viewpoints in as well.
This is a lovely cemetery to walk around. It’s flat all around, and although the paths are set up in a grid-like pattern, as you approach the far walls, which angle out in a non-grid like direction, you either get to see a lot of newer graves, or incredibly old and forgotten ones. There are many beautiful tall trees here, making for some lovely light and atmosphere as you walk among them. Conversely, because of them it can get quite dark and gloomy if the sun is hiding behind some dark clouds.
One thing you may notice about this blog is that I rarely post photos of religious statues, save for angels, and that’s not a coincidence. First of all, I’m not a religious person, despite my interest in spiritual places. Secondly, many of the more religious statues tend to be (and forgive me for being blunt), boring. It’s either a standard crucifixion, a beatific Jesus with his arms spread out (angels do this too), and sometimes a Pietà. In many cases, cemeteries will often feature very similar statues of the same type, and it becomes boring after a while. I’m so used to seeing the same statues again and again I often have to question myself as to whether or not I’ve been in a certain section before. I have to admit though, that Melaten Cemetery had quite a large variety of different statuary styles of Jesus in different stages of his life – much more interesting than usual. Below is a small sample of some of the monuments I found there:
And while I think of it, third, since I have a limited supply of film (and iPhone storage), I usually save my photos for the non-religious statues I’m there to see. I do make exceptions of course, for monuments that truly stand out.
Like so many other cemeteries that I’ve visited, this is definitely one that I’d like to return to, should I ever be in the vicinity of Cologne again.
Quality of Monuments: Excellent. There’s a real wide variety of both older and newer monuments throughout the cemetery. Even though none are protected from the elements, many are still in very good condition. The further you get out from the centre though, the more worn some of the monuments become.
Cemetery Grounds: Fairly large – it would take several hours to cover the grounds quickly, give yourself at least a good half day if you really want to explore.
Visitors: As I visited on a Sunday there were plenty of visitors in the morning, although they changed more to tourists in the afternoon. Some people visiting graves were having picnics and small barbeque parties there, which I found interesting.
Photographer Notes: Lots of uneven light here due to the trees. That can be both a benefit and a struggle, depending on which monument you are trying to photograph.
Cemetery: Melaten Cemetery (Melaten-Friedhof)
Established: 1243 (Original site as a home for lepers), during the Middle Ages public executions took place here, followed by burning witches at the stake. Until 1829 only Catholics were buried here. Despite the age of the site, most of the graves here are within the last 200 years.
Location: Aachener Str. 204, 50931 Köln. You can take metro line 1 or 7 to Melaten station, although it’s not that far from downtown if you feel like walking (at least 30-45 minutes)
Notable Internments: the Farina family (originators of “Eau de Cologne”)
Hours: Summer (1 April to 30 September): 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Autumn (1 October to 1 November): 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Winter: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.