The Zentralfriedhof (German for "Central Cemetery") is one of the largest cemeteries in the world, largest by number of interred in Europe and most famous cemetery among Vienna's nearly 50 cemeteries.
Name and location
The cemetery's name is descriptive of its significance as Vienna's biggest cemetery, not of its geographic location, as it is not situated in the city center of the Austrian capital, but on the very outskirts, in the outer city district of Simmering, and its address is Simmeringer Hauptstraße 230–244, Vienna 1110, Austria. The musician Wolfgang Ambros honoured the Zentralfriedhof in his 1975 song "Es lebe der Zentralfriedhof" ("Long live the Zentralfriedhof"), marking with it the 100th anniversary of the cemetery's opening.
History and description
The Vienna Central Cemetery is not one that has evolved slowly with the passing of time unlike many others. The decision to establish a new, big cemetery for Vienna came in 1863. Around that time, it became clear that – due to industrialisation – the city's population would eventually increase to such an extent that the existing communal cemeteries would prove insufficient. It was expected that Vienna, then capital of the large Austro-Hungarian Empire, would grow to have four million inhabitants by the end of the 20th century (no-one could know that the Empire would collapse in 1918). The city council therefore decided to assign an area significantly outside of the city's borders and of such a gigantic dimension, that it would suffice for a long time to come. It was decided in 1869 that a flat area in Simmering should be the site of the future Zentralfriedhof. The cemetery was designed in 1870; according to the plans of the Frankfurt landscape architects Karl Jonas Mylius and Alfred Friedrich Bluntschli who were awarded for their project "per angusta ad augusta" (from dire to sublime).
Opened in November 1874 on All Saint's Day,at that time; located far outside of Vienna's city borders, the consecration of the cemetery was not without controversy: the interdenominational character of the new cemetery - the different faith groups being interred on the same ground - met with fierce resistance, of course, especially in conservative circles of the Roman Catholic Church.
This argument became even more aggressive when the city announced that it did not want an official Catholic opening of the new cemetery - but gave a substantial amount of money towards the construction of a segregated Jewish section. In the end, an agreement was found and the Catholic representatives opened the Zentralfriedhof with a small blessing ceremony, but refrained from too much ceremonial pomposity. So the new cemetery was almost unnoticed inaugurated in the early morning hours on October 31, 1874, by the Mayor of Vienna Baron Cajetan von Felder and Cardinal Joseph Othmar Rauscher to avoid an escalation of the public.
The official opening of the Central Cemetery took place on All Saints' Day, on 1 November 1874.The first burial was that of Jacob Zelzer and 15 other dead people followed the same day. The grave of Jacob Zelzer still exists today and is located near the administration building at the cemetery wall.
The cemetery spans 2.4 square kilometres with 3.3 million interred here, up to 20-25 burials daily. It is also second largest cemetery, after Hamburg's Ohlsdorf Cemetery (more than 4 km²), by area and largest by number of interred in Europe. Viennese refer to the Zentralfriedhof 'half the size of Zurich and twice as much fun',(German: „Halb so groß wie Zürich - aber doppelt so lustig ist der Wiener Zentralfriedhof!“) as the cemetery is only half as large as the city of Zurich. Zentralfriedhof has a dead population of almost twice the present living residents of Vienna.
Across Simmeringer Hauptstrasse from the main gate is the Crematorium, built by Clemens Holzmeister in 1922 in the style of an oriental fortress.
Cremation is not very popular in Austria, the rate currently hovers around 20 percent. This can be attributed to Austria’s traditions of the 'Schöne Leiche' (beautiful corpse).
The church in the centre of the cemetery is named Karl-Borromäus-Kirche (Charles Borromeo Church), but is also known as Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Gedächtniskirche (Karl Lueger Memorial Church) because of the crypt of the former mayor of Vienna below the high altar. This church in Art Nouveau style was built in 1908-1910 by Max Hegele. The crypt of the Austrian Federal Presidents is located near the Dr.-Karl-Lueger Memorial Church. Beneath the sarcophagus,there is a burial vault with stairs leading down to a circular room. In the wall, there are the niches where the deceased in an urn or coffin to be buried.
In its early incarnations, it was so unpopular due to the distance from the city center that the authorities had to think of ways to make it more attractive - hence the development of the Ehrengräber or honorary graves as a kind of tourist attraction.
Vienna is a city of music since time immemorial, and the municipality expressed gratitude to composers by granting them monumental tombs. Interred in the Zentralfriedhof are notables such as Beethoven and Schubert who were moved there in 1888, and Johannes Brahms, Antonio Salieri, Johann Strauss II and Arnold Schoenberg. There is a cenotaph erected in honour of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but he was actually buried in nearby St. Marx Cemetery.
The interdenominational character
In addition to the Catholic section, there is a Protestant cemetery (opened 1904) and two Jewish cemeteries.
Although the older of the two, established in 1863, was destroyed by the Nazis during the Kristallnacht, around 60,000 graves still remain intact.The number of interred in this part of the cemetery is given as 79,833 Jewish burials as of date July 10, 2011.Prominent burials here include those of the Rothschild family and that of the author Arthur Schnitzler. The second Jewish cemetery was built in 1917 and is still in use today.There were 58,804 Jewish burials in the new section as of date November 21, 2007.
Since 1876, Muslims are buried at Vienna's Zentralfriedhof. The dead are buried according to Austrian law, in the coffin, in contrast to the Islamic ritual practice; burial in a shroud. The opening of the new Islamic cemetery of the Islamic Faith Community took place on 3 October 2008 in Liesing.
There is a Russian Orthodox burial ground (Saint Lazarus chapel, 1894) and plots dedicated for the use of various Orthodox churches.Greek Orthodox community buried their dead since 1869, belonging to group 30 A, at Gate 2, behind the arcades, Romanian Orthodox community at the gate 3, Group 38th.The Bulgarian Orthodox Christians are buried in the same group 38.Serbian Orthodox community received their own plot in the group 68 B, 69 C, Tor 3 and group 27A contains the tombs of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
The Protestant section on the east side is dedicated for the use of both confessions-parts of the Evangelical Protestant church in Austria, the Lutheran A.B (Evangelische Kirche Augsburger Bekenntnis) and Calvinist H.B (Evangelische Kirche Helvetisches Bekenntnis).The cemetery was inaugurated in the presence of the President of the Evangelical Protestant Church , Dr. Rudolf Franz on November 14, 1904. The cemetery was expanded in 1926 and 1972 and 1998.The Protestant section consists of 6,000 graves and 300 family vaults.
Europe's first Buddhist cemetery was established in Zentralfriedhof in May 2005. An area of the Zentralfriedhof has been set aside for this purpose with a stupa in the middle, and was consecrated by a Tibetan monk.
On September 19, 2009, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Austria celebrated the dedication of an hectare-sized plot set apart for the Mormon deceased, located in Zentralfriedhof.
On March 5, 2009, the new Anatomy Memorial was opened in group 26, which is the graveyard of the Institute of Anatomy of the University of Vienna and for the people who donated their bodies to science.
Since 2000, there is a Baby burial ground close to Tor 3 (group 35b) where stillborn infants, dead babies, and young children up to 110 cm. of height are interred.
Due to the vast size of the cemetery, private car traffic is allowed on the cemetery grounds every day of the year except November 1/All Saint's Day, although a toll has to be paid. Car traffic is not allowed on November 1 (All Saint's Day) due to potential traffic jams. Also, a public "cemetery bus" line (no. 106) exists, with several stops inside the cemetery grounds.
The old Simmering horse tram was replaced by an electric tram, running from Schwarzenbergplatz to the Zentralfriedhof, in 1901 and it was renumbered as "71" (der 71er) in 1907: it remains the most popular route to the cemetery using public transport. Among the Viennese, a popular euphemism for a death is that the deceased person "has taken the 71" ("Er hat den 71er genommen").
The metro suburban railway (Vienna S-Bahn) also has a stop called "Zentralfriedhof" close to the old Jewish part of the cemetery. The closest underground stop is "Simmering" (Vienna U-Bahn, line U3), about 2 km away from the cemetery.