Rome - Protestant Cemetery

Shelley Sites/Sights

Rome - Protestant Cemetery

Rome's Protestant Cemetery is small, and is divided roughly into two halves. The section in which Shelley's ashes are buried faces the entrance gate, and is densely crowded with gravestones. Shelley's grave is set off in a sheltered area at the rear—the roof can be seen between the trees in the first photo below. Next to him is buried his friend Edward Trelawny, who died in England in 1881.
The inscription on Shelley's gravestone assures the reader that "Nothing of him that doth fade, / But doth suffer a sea-change / Into something rich and strange."
 

Unhappily, Shelley's remains suffered not only a sea-change but a variety of other transformations before arriving at the cemetery. A number of romanticized paintings depict Shelley’s cremation: the young poet lies serenely atop his bier, surrounded by his friends (including Byron) and grieving widow.

Actually, what was left of Shelley’s body was hardly in any condition to be painted. The corpse had washed up some ten days after the drowning and all exposed flesh was gone—Shelley was identified by his socks, trousers, and a volume of Keats’s poetry in his pocket. The body was then covered in quicklime and temporarily buried in a shallow grave until permission for cremation could be acquired. Mary did not attend the cremation; Byron was there for a short time but got nauseous and had to leave. The ashes were eventually transferred to the Protestant cemetery in Rome.

John Keats is buried in the less populated, more parklike section of the cemetery, in a quiet corner close to the Pyramid (seen here in a contemporary drawing).
Like Shelley, he rests next to a friend—in this case, the artist Joseph Severn, who cared for Keats during his last illness and drew the young poet's final portrait.
Between them lies the grave of Severn's son.
Not far away is the gravesite of William ("Willmouse") Shelley, who died in Rome on 7 June 1819, at the age of three.
The Protestant Cemetery is near the Pyramid metro stop; it lies behind the Pyramid itself, and is locked up at 5:30 PM.

Published @ RC

January 2006

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