The Protestant cemetery in Rome has been listed by the World Monuments Fund as one of the 100 most endangered monuments in the world. Inclusion on the WMFs list for 2006 not only gives the beautiful cemetery close to the heart of Rome the recognition it deserves, it will also focus international attention on the difficulties this peaceful spot faced in recent years.
The cemetery, the last resting place of the Romantic poets Keats and Shelley, as well as thousands of other foreigners who died in the eternal city from the 18th century onwards, is grappling with the problem of rising maintenance costs and diminishing income. Upkeep of the structure and many of the beautiful, 19th-century funerary monuments, which are threatened by pollution and overgrown vegetation, has therefore become increasingly difficult.
The cemetery, which was set aside in the middle of the 18th century for the burial of non-Catholic foreigners (its official name in Italian is Il Cimitero per Acattolici), is the responsibility of a committee of the ambassadors whose nationals are buried in the grounds. But the task of managing this historic monument, which until recently was also an active burial ground, has been proving a daunting task for these diplomats.
In the last few months both the Keats-Shelley Memorial House in Rome (www.keats-shelley-house.org) and ICCROM (www.iccrom.org), the prestigious international centre for preservation and restoration that is based in Rome, have started a full-scale examination of the cemetery in order to establish a conservation management plan.