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Lutheran Augsburg Cemetery

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Warsaw

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      30.11.2012 16:46
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      A very attractive cemetery and chapel

      The Augsburg Lutheran Cemetery (Cmentarz ewangelicko-augsburski) is somewhere I have wanted to visit ever since I moved to Warsaw. I can see the walls of the cemetery from my bedroom. At the moment the scene is a very pretty one as all the tall trees planted in the cemetery have not lost all of their leaves. The view looks like a sea of russet clouds filled with flashes of orange, amber and gold.

      The cemetery was designed by Szymon Bogumil Zug and opened in May 1972. I am familiar with the initials SB Zug and know of the name as he was the architect responsible for many wonderful buildings in Warsaw like the Holy Trinity Church which is close to the National Ethnographic Museum, the palace of Natolin, Palac Blanka on Senatorska Street, the Guardhouse in Lazienki Park and the English/Chinese Garden at Wilanow Palace. Zug was born in Saxony and spent most of his working life in Poland. He died at the age of 64 in August, 1807 and was buried in the cemetery he created, here on Mlynarska Street.

      It was a fine, bright day on Saturday so I decided to have a peep at Mr. Zug's cemetery. There is a huge gate across from the chapel but it was closed so I took a few strides further down the street until I came to an entrance next to the caretaker's house and flower shop. There is a notice board here showing the layout of the avenues but to be honest all the pathways and avenues blend into one as the cemetery is quite overgrown. By this I mean that the plant life has got out of hand and hasn't been cut back when it should have been.

      I took the pathway leading to the side of the white Lutheran Chapel (Kaplica Halpertów) which was built in 1835. The building has just been recently renovated and for many months was covered and had scaffolding surrounding it. Every day when I'm at home I can hear the bells chime at midday, it's a reminder to leave the computer alone and go into the kitchen to make some soup for lunch.

      The chapel was founded by the Halpertow family who used the chapel along with other Lutheran followers, regularly. The family came from a banking background and also had connections in the tobacco industry.

      This isn't the original design as it stands now as the chapel was rebuilt in the 60s. I don't think it looks like a chapel as it is far too big and grand looking. I always think of chapels being small and made of stone like you see in the Welsh mountains. As you walk through the main gates you are confronted with stone steps which lead you to the front façade of the chapel; white, classical in design, square in shape with two fine supporting columns leading into a portico and large wooden door. Above the door sits the Halpertów family name and the year the chapel was opened. At either side of the door and in the tympanium are decorative classical motifs. Walking past the front façade you can go directly into the cemetery.

      The back of the chapel bears the same design only on a smaller scale and without the columns. Above the portico there is an inscription which reads,' Sic transit Gloria Mundi' which is a Latin phrase and when roughly translated means, "Thus passes the glory of the world." The family name is also inscribed above the portico. Flashings of sun rays have been designed into the tympanium at the back of the church and from this angle you can also see the single steel cross on top of the church which can be viewed from the front of the chapel too.

      Now that the building has been re -plastered and painted it does look very handsome. The setting is a very pretty one with a backdrop of ancient chestnut trees and flagged paths.

      I did notice that some of the flagstones that make up the paths were crooked and some of them were sticking up. I trod carefully as I do have a reputation for tripping up and falling over. I also noticed that the ground was full of moisture even though it hadn't been raining the night before. Many head stones were covered with dark green moss and I spotted a few tree trunks that were covered with wonderful species of fungi.

      Some of the sources I have researched state that over 100,000 bodies are buried in this cemetery. I find this hard to believe as overall, the cemetery isn't too large in size. Many of the head stones are very grand and there are some very interesting tombs and vaults. One of the highlights for me was the vault made from wrought iron. There was also a tomb designed like a mini mosque which was very attractive. Not all the tombs and gravestones are in good order as the cemetery was hit badly during the Kosciuszko Uprising and of course, during World War II fighting took place inside the cemetery walls and many pieces of architecture were damaged. A trust has been set up to help to restore the cemetery back to how it was and to repair many of the precious artifacts but this all takes time and will be a long process.

      As I walked down the many paths, I heard the scraping of garden tools as people were clearing graves and making pathways tidy. My main mission was to find the grave belonging to Emil Wedel who was the son of the famous confectioner, Charles Wedel. Mr Wedel is on par with Mr Cadbury and his chocolate is just as delicious. I noticed lots of old Polish names like; Samuel, Edward, Gabriela and Johann. These names aren't used very much these days. I never did find the Wedel grave but I saw Zug's grave and a beautiful white marble gravestone belonging to Irena Grossman. Other graves I noticed belonged to Herman Jung, a Polish brewer and Zygmunt Vogel, a Polish painter, watercolourist and architect.

      I spent a lot of time looking at people's names and professions; it is something that always interests me. There is a wide cross section of society here; theologians, doctors, painters, linguists, opera singers, members of the Warsaw Uprising, librarians, writers and actors/actresses. I spent at least two hours looking at the gravestones and I didn't find the ones I was looking for so I will have to go back again probably when we have the next sunny day.

      I like this chapel and cemetery but then I am a big fan of cemeteries and like to do the rounds. Just around the corner is the Evangelical Cemetery on Zytnia Street and about a 15 minute walk away is one of Warsaw's famous cemeteries, Powazki. If you are interested in cemeteries you can make a day of it and view all three.

      I know this cemetery is not central but it is easy enough to find. You can take a tram 20, 23 and 24 and get off at the stop, Dlugosz. It's a very pleasant cemetery with some fabulous pieces of architecture and wonderful old chestnut trees.

      Opening times: 7am until dusk

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