There is a tendency for human beings to create discrete bits of meaning which are perfectly comprehensible. Then they stack them into archives, pile them into heaps, and evacuate them into dumps, where the meanings become muddled, buried, and lost. I have seen this happen in software development, and now I have seen it in a cemetery.
I mean no disrespect to the Italian people when I say that the Certosa Cemetary in Bologna is one of these monstrous heaps of decaying meanings. It is fabulous, beyond anything I ever imagined, and it is also appalling.
We took a long walk to the cemetery on January 4, a chilly, gray day. We went in through the front gate, along with a group of women who were supporting another, woman. Later we saw the woman standing on a ladder in front of a wall of tombs like those in the photo below. She was beating on the front of one of the upper tombs and weeping.
The cemetery is immense; we didn't even try to see it all. There are long porticoes filled with elaborate bas-reliefs and inscriptions, long avenues between field after field of tombs of all sizes and shapes. There are beautiful buildings with high roofs that shelter some large memorials. There are tombs everywhere, even hidden inside the blank walls of the porticoes, as we saw through a grungy door that was left open.
There is a lot of beautiful artwork and decoration in Certosa; there is also a lot of stuff that I found unappealing. In parts of the cemetery there is a heavy quality of decay that you can see and smell, though it might feel differently on a warm, sunny day. Seeing it was a powerful experience, which I recommend to anyone who doesn't mind being surrounded by a vast archive of death and mourning.