You know you’ve hit it big time when people start referring to you as the base standard, such as a place being the ‘mecca’ of ______, or then the more specific, the (specific person, place, or thing) of (the specialty). When it comes to cemeteries, the most famous (to the lay person) would probably be Pere Lachaise in Paris, or Highgate in London. However, as the former is the most visited cemetery in the world, it usually takes the top honour. So what does this have to do with a small cemetery in a small city in Belgium? Well, as I was doing my research for cemeteries to visit, the top ranked one in Ghent, where I am making my base, seemed to be Campo Santo, a large Catholic Cemetery. Some reviewers referred to it as the ‘Pere Lachaise’ of Ghent. If this had been the only Cemetery I had visited today, I would maybe agree with that, but having gone to the Western Cemetery later in the afternoon, I can say, no, not really.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Campo Santo is a beautiful cemetery located on a small hillside. It has a lot of above ground tombs, some quite elaborate, and some interesting statues. But two things were working against it when I visited this morning: the groundskeepers doing maintenance around every interesting statue I wanted to photograph, and the construction work going on throughout the cemetery – the sound of drills and saws in the background don’t exactly make for a peaceful meander through the grounds. Nor did the massive crane moving earth overhead help (though was interesting to watch). Actually, I can add a third element that both worked for and against me here. The light. The light works both for and against the photographer, depending on the circumstances, and although I had a beautiful low sun creating lots of nice long shadows (the effect of a low winter sun in the northern latitudes), the fact that I was photographing on a hillside meant that I often had the sun in my frame, crating a lot of flare and/or backlight, making it difficult to photograph the more interesting statues.
Despite all of these issues, I still had a nice time exploring the grounds.
Monuments: A nice mix of older statues and barely holding themselves together mausoleums, plus some newer monuments. A number of stones had missing elements, which made for some interesting silhouettes.
Grounds: This cemetery is one of the few hillsides in Ghent, so there are some stairs and slopes to navigate, but nothing too difficult.
Visitors: None while I was here, although there were a lot of construction workers and grounds keeping staff around.
Notes: As mentioned above, the low lying sun was an issue, I imagine from spring to fall it wouldn’t be, and may illuminate certain statues better as a result.
Cemetery: Campo Santo
Established: A chapel was establish at the top of the hill in 1720, but the cemetery was opened in 1847.
Notable Internments: Ghent’s most notable Catholics have made this their preferred burial place
Location: It’s about a 15-minute walk from Gent Dampoort station, by Sint Amandsberg church.