|The history of the
Old City-graveyard of Leeuwarden
The Old City-graveyard of
Leeuwarden at the Spanjaardslaan is nearly 165 years old.
Walking about this graveyard one is overcome by a touch of serenity, like
walking in a park . This
was the intention of the architect of the graveyard. Because of a royal interdiction in
1827, which definately put an end to the unhygienic burial in churches, communities had to
seek more suitable locations to bury outside the cities. Before the 19th century, warnings
against burying in churchbuildings being rather unhealthy had no effect what so ever. A
piece of ground in the dunes of Scheveningen had been consigned in 1778 to the graveyard
"Ter Navolging" which means "To serve as a model". In the years
between the laying-out of the graveyard "Ter Navolging" and the graveyard in
Leeuwarden a lot of things happened, but in the domain of burials people stuck one stiked
to the prevailing traditions. However landscape gardener Lucas Pieters Roodbaard in
Leeuwarden succeeded in designing a graveyard which, in his opinion, could well be called
a park .
This idea of a park in combination with a graveyard
is what makes this place so special nowadays. The graveyard opened in 1833, four years
after the citycounsil had decided to use the old dwelling mound Fiswerd for this purpose.
Once a monastry stood here, but because of all kinds of trouble it had been gone for ages.
The graveyard was designed under the influence of the romantic ideas of that periode.
Therefore the graveyard doesn't make a succinct, tight impression, but a
pretended-natural, casual one. There are wide roundgoing paths, spherical gravefields and
unexpected vistas with
many different trees and bushes. Although more than one and a half centuri had passed by
the intentions of the thirties of the last century are still recognizable.
Walking up to the graveyard between the little
white houses , one immediately notices taking distance from the city
behind. On summery days walking along the winding gravel paved paths, you no longer
imagine being at a graveyard, but in an old park. Yet one look aside presents a view at
sepulchral monuments, of which many hundreds are still standing here. When you walk up to
a department, you will soon get aware of the fact that this is a 19th century graveyard.
The impression, which is created by the many, sometimes fairly decayed sepulchral
unmistakably one of the previous century.
Every department tells its own story.
There are five of such departments.
The first department was intended for the rich middle-class and noble
people of the city of Leeuwarden and the province Friesland. Here you you will find famous
families like the Eijsinga's, Andringa de Kempenaers ,
the Ypeij's and Vegelin van Claerbergen. For their last restingplace they had beautiful
monuments made with signs that made their birth clear to every visitor. Some graves are
surrounded by fine fences, most of which now keep guard rustily.
In the second department you will
see that the dignified are less in number. Still the rich middle-class people who rest
here acquitted themselves well. Under the last autumn leaves some stones show a symbolic richness which sometimes tells more than a line of words.
In the third department the
well-to-do-class of Leeuwarden are buried. In this department no nobility is to be found
and the trades of the ones who are buried here are plain. But of course there are also
exceptions. Some people of importance, like Lourens F. Zandstra ,
one of the founders of the S.D.A.P. the later Partij van de Arbeid, got their last respect
from their followers in the form of a significant sepulchral monument. It is striking that
in this very department the finest fencess are to be found. Sometimes one sees completely
sunken monuments, which add just that, what other graveyards so reluctantly miss.
The fourth department is situated
at the farthest end of the entrance. In this department many people are buried, not having
a monument of their own, at most a wooden sign , which has been long gone,
just like they have themselves. The fourth department is characterized by the many simple
upstanding tombstones. Only here and there you ill find a fence around a grave.
The fifth department is the latest
layed out. Immediately you will notice the different design. Here grass dominates and the
room between the sepulchral monuments is much wider than at the other fields.
In the corner hidden in the green you will find the
mortuary of this grave-yard. Here the ravages of time can be see quit well. The nice little building once served
to take away the fear of being buried alive. Whether this has succeeded can no longer be
Walking through the high walls of yew-trees one
leaves the graveyard, again along the little white houses and the massive gate, which
undoubtedly characterise the place you have just been visiting.
Foundation the Old City-graveyard of
In 1996 a foundation started, initiated by the
council of Leeuwarden and a number of enthusiastic citizens, devoted to the maintenance of
this graveyard. How beautiful this graveyard may be and appreciated, there are allways
people with other opinions and time is not a great help.
The graveyard closed in 1970 and no more funerals
are held. At the end of the eighties it seemed the graveyard would disappear, although it
was put on the list of monuments in the Netherlands. The council did not seem to have any
grip on the laborious greenery and poor maintenance of the sepulchral monuments. It may be
a romantic picture for a layman, but for the professional visitor it is a menacing
Through the application of some people within the
department of ancient monuments and greenery of the municipality of Leeuwarden a proposal
was a put forward, in with a foundation seemed the best solution. A number of people with
experience in the area of funerals and cemeteries took part in the foundation and in the
mean time through the great input already, some achievements have been made. The green at
the graveyard was tackled and back maintenance was carried out.
The foundation particularly focuses on the
consolidation of the current situation. They recognize the fact that a graveyard is liable
to decay, but they like to supervise the decline in a way that unnecessary damage can be
The foundation therefor looks for people who are
willing to keep the sepulchral monuments of their ancestors. This can be done through
maintenance of the sepulchral monuments, or by starting to do so. There also are people
who like to support the foundation financially, in their aim to achieve their goals.
Annually the foundation organises a cleaning-day to
enlarge the participation of the people of Leeuwarden. For the entire graveyard a
restorationplan has been made, for which a subsidy will be requested soon. The foundation
can be reached at the following address:
Stichting Oude Stadsbegraafplaats
P.O. Box. 1644
8901 BX LEEUWARDEN
telephonenumber 035 - 5381155
The account of the foundation is:
Friesland Bank (HOLLAND)