Old Bonn cemetery

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The old cemetery in Bonn was laid out in 1715. It was the first cemetery outside the Bonn city fortifications . Today the facility is located in the center of the city and is surrounded by traffic areas, residential and commercial buildings. The cemetery is a place that reflects the history of the city since the beginning of the 18th century as well as architectural styles and stylistic epochs since the Baroque . Numerous prominent graves as well as graves and monuments of important artists make the Bonn burial place one of the most famous cemeteries in Germany. It was therefore included as particularly worth seeing in the ensemble of the street of garden art between the Rhine and Maas .

View between the rows of graves in the Old Cemetery - St. George's Chapel in the background

Cemeteries in ancient times and in the Middle Ages

Path to the old cemetery in Bonn

In the Roman Bonn there were several grave fields and a whole series of individual graves, which were distributed over the entire city today. None of these graves were within the legionary camp. One of the grave fields, which is documented by finds, was in the vicinity of the square on which the Bonn Minster stands today. A very well preserved tomb from Roman times commemorates the legionnaire Quintus Petilius Secundus , who died at the age of 25 . The almost 2000 year old tomb can be seen today in the Rheinisches Landesmuseum.

In medieval Bonn, the cemeteries were within the city wall, in the immediate vicinity of the parish churches. The small St. Mertens churchyard of the parish church of St. Martin, which was later demolished, was located near the minster, and the largest medieval churchyard at what was then St. Remigius church was on today's Remigiusplatz.

The members of Bonn's small Jewish community did not bury their dead within the city ​​walls . They had to cross the Rhine at funerals to bury their dead in the Jewish cemetery in Schwarzrheindorf .

Beginnings of the Old Cemetery

Oldest part of the cemetery - plan section from 1819
Current map of the old cemetery

It was Elector Joseph Clemens who had the “new cemetery” laid out at the beginning of 1715 and consecrated it himself. The long overcrowded churchyard next to St. Remigius should be relieved; It also served as a replacement for the emergency cemeteries that existed in the inner-city area during the epidemics of the 17th century, and for a burial place for soldiers on a bastion in front of the Sterntor. This burial place is the immediate forerunner of the Old Cemetery, but not identical to it. Joseph Clemens bought the land for the new cemetery, which was located outside the city wall for the first time. He designated him to be buried “in front of common residents, passers-by and soldiers” , while the dignitaries had their hereditary burials at St. Remigius'.

The “new cemetery” only comprised the outermost tip of today's facility, a small triangle, the tip of which was formed by the Bornheimer and the street “Am Alten Friedhof”. At first it was not even fenced, so that the residents did not respect its border: Joseph Clemens had to order the High Secular Court in Bonn to clarify the property situation and to have the cemetery demolished.

The successor to Joseph Clemens, Elector Clemens August , once again expressly decreed on March 29, 1725, “that all deceased soldiers, poor folk, strangers, by heart, and those citizens or residents of our residences here, their children and domestics, which none constant own burials within the city in the churches or in which churchyards have, like those whose graves are filled with the burial of many dead, outside the star gate in the sanctified so-called soldiers churchyard are buried. "

The new cemetery was initially not very popular; It was an exception when “notables” were buried there: The death register of St. Remigius contains the entry on March 26, 1725: “Mr. Stephanus Chevalier de Chambellé, major of the bodyguards, supreme of the green dragoon regiment (has) in front of the star gate To be buried on the newen Kirchhoff is very desirable. "

"General" burial place

The last elector to reside in Bonn, Maximilian Franz , ordered the closure of the cemeteries in the city on April 5, 1787 for reasons of hygiene and declared the cemetery in front of the Sterntor to be a “general” burial place. He renewed the funeral system for Bonn and preceded other cities with this decision. In neighboring Cologne, it was the French occupation that brought about such a change after Napoléon issued the “Décret sur les sépultures” on June 12, 1804 , which forbade burials in cities, villages and closed buildings. A measure that did not meet with everyone's approval, because the time of burials in churches and in the churchyard was over, a form that meant closeness to the altar and thus closeness to God and at the same time high respect.

The new cemetery was only “general” to the extent that it meant the Christian population. The members of Bonn's Jewish community continued to bury their dead on the right side of the Rhine , the Beuel side. A Jewish cemetery on the left bank of the Rhine was only created in 1872.

The ordinance of Maximilian Franz from 1787 meant that the Bonn cemetery in its old size soon no longer offered enough space and the first enlargements had to be made. From then on, hereditary graves could be acquired again. Extensions in the years 1831 to 1833 were justified by the city with the victims of a cholera epidemic . In 1840, the area of ​​the cemetery more than doubled. In the 1860s, further land purchases were necessary, and in 1876 the area was last enlarged. Eight years later, in 1884, the cemetery was closed to general burials after a new municipal cemetery, the Nordfriedhof , was created to replace it .

Design of the cemetery

The Georgskapelle - on the right in the background the towers of the Bonn Minster - lithograph around 1850

It is particularly thanks to Mayor Leopold Kaufmann that horticultural and aesthetic aspects were taken into account when designing the cemetery. The Bonn-born General Garden Director in Potsdam , Peter Joseph Lenné , was involved in the planning. They loosened up the area and redesigned it like a park .

George's Chapel

In 1846/1847, on the initiative of the Royal Building Inspector Johann Claudius von Lassaulx, the George Chapel was relocated to the cemetery. The Romanesque building had been part of the former Teutonic Order in Ramersdorf since the 13th century .


Some of the trees in the Old Cemetery are more than 150 years old. These include plane trees in the area around the Georgskapelle, the sequoia near the graves of the two barons of Benekendorf and the oak, which was brought from Rügen to Bonn as a young plant and which Ernst Moritz Arndt planted in 1834 on the grave of his nine-year-old son Willibald, who drowned in the Rhine.


Tomb of Clemens Vinzenz Graf von der Heyden-Belderbusch

The graves in the Old Cemetery reflect the history of Bonn since the end of the 18th century, at least the history as it was determined in the 18th century by members of the residence of the Cologne elector and by wealthy citizens since the beginning of the 19th century. After the decision to turn the Old Cemetery into a “general burial place”, not only the “common residents” but also the wealthy and celebrities of the city were buried here. In many cases, they and their families wanted more than a simple grave. They then wanted a representative site that would remind them of their lives beyond death and at the same time ensure respect for those who were born afterwards. It is these tombs that have been preserved in the Old Cemetery. In contrast, the simple individual and row graves of the deceased who could not afford a representative tomb and for whom the cemetery was originally laid out have completely disappeared.

Graves from electoral times

Today there are only a few tombs of people who experienced the electoral era. These include the heavily weathered and damaged epitaph of the Electorate of Cologne military officer Johann Laurentius Schiller zuwerteau (1678–1745).

19th century graves

The bourgeois Bonn, shaped by the university , but also Bonn as a city of music, represent numerous graves of prominent residents of the city.

In 1849 the writer Adele Schopenhauer , Arthur Schopenhauer's sister , was buried. The musicians who have found their final resting place in the Old Cemetery include the two pianists Alma von Wasilewski and Ella Adaïewsky , as well as Ludwig van Beethoven's violin teacher Franz Anton Ries . The grave of Beethoven's mother, Maria Magdalena van Beethoven , is also located here. The grave of Clara and Robert Schumann is provided with a monument worth seeing . In 1880 the composer Wilhelm Westmeyer was buried in the cemetery.

The squad of Bonn professors buried in the cemetery are headed by Ernst Moritz Arndt and August Wilhelm Schlegel . A rector of the university buried there was z. B. Clemens-August Baron Droste zu Hülshoff , cousin of the poet Annette von Droste-Hülshoff . Friedrich Christoph Dahlmann , Karl Friedrich Mohr , Christian Friedrich Nasse , Georg Niebuhr , Johann Jacob Nöggerath , Julius Plücker , Hermann Schaaffhausen and Karl Joseph Simrock also worked as teachers at the university .

The deceased who were closely associated with artists of the 19th century are the art collectors Sulpiz and Melchior Boisserée, Friedrich Schiller's wife Charlotte von Schiller and their son Ernst von Schiller . Last but not least, the writer and muse of Richard Wagner , Mathilde Wesendonck , belongs to this group of celebrities together with her husband Otto Wesendonck. Elise von Falkenstein (1799–1838), mother of the Bonn-born explorer and adventure writer Balduin Möllhausen (1825–1905), is one of them.

20th century graves

The grave of Mildred Scheel (1932–1985)

As a burial place, the cemetery was officially closed since 1884. From then until the second half of the 20th century, only descendants of the buried or private owners or honorary citizens of the city of Bonn had the right to be buried in the old cemetery. On the listed "historic cemetery" only individual graves have been assigned as graves of honor in recent decades . The last single grave of this kind to date was dedicated to the doctor Mildred Scheel , who, as the wife of Federal President Walter Scheel, founded the German Cancer Aid in the fight against the widespread disease cancer . According to information provided by cemetery gardeners , the grave site maintained by the German Cancer Aid Foundation is often visited by citizens from all federal states who lay flowers.

The prominent personalities who found their final resting place here in the last century also include Elisabeth Erdmann-Macke, August Macke's widow, the writer Marie von Bunsen , a descendant of the Prussian diplomat Christian Karl Josias von Bunsen , the writer Wilhelm , who was also buried here Schmidtbonn , the doctor Ferdinand August Schmidt and the politician Hermann Wandersleb . Among the graves is also that of Princess Agnes zu Salm-Salm , born as Agnes Leclerq Joy , whose urn was buried on March 20, 1913 in the Old Cemetery (Section IV c No. 170).

The Second World War, most of the monuments survived undamaged. Tombs suffered damage or were even completely destroyed in the area to the west and east of St. George's Chapel. In the following years until the 1970s, the public did not care much about the preservation of the cemetery. This only changed with the establishment of the "Society of Friends and Patrons of the Old Cemetery in Bonn eV"

A few years ago, the city, whose office Stadtgrün is responsible for the general care and maintenance of the cemetery today, again gave a larger circle of deceased the opportunity to find their final resting place here. Every citizen now has the opportunity to sponsor a grave . In return for the care, the sponsor receives the right to burial in the cared for grave. As a result of this regulation, there are now around 30 burials a year in the old cemetery.

Since a large part of the cemetery is not approved for burials, the operating costs , € 153,000 in 2005, can only be covered to a small extent by the usual fees. Despite the grants from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia for the “monument” Alter Friedhof in the amount of 59,000 €, the city has a shortfall in coverage. The sponsorships - and thus lower operating costs - reduce it.

Monuments to those who fell in the Franco-German War

In addition to graves and memorials for individual and family graves, two memorials were created as a result of the Franco-German War , which serve to commemorate those who fell in this war. The "war memorial" created by Albert Hermann Küppers from a block of white marble is dedicated to the German fallen in this war. In the same area where this memorial is located, there is a memorial for the French fallen.

Works by major artists

In its almost three hundred year history, numerous sculptors and architects have designed and executed grave monuments for the Old Cemetery. They represent the most important artistic epochs since the baroque. In their work, they used a wide range of symbols and stylistic devices. Next to the Christian cross is the ancient urn or the broken column . The Nazarene Angel is just like the ancient genius with the lowered torch or the winged Psyche express a variety of ideas about death. In busts , reliefs and medallions, the artists strive for an idealized, in many cases realistic, almost photographic image of the deceased.

Artists and their works

Niebuhr grave

The Niebuhr grave in the old cemetery

Soon after the death of the historian Georg Niebuhr on January 2, 1831 and that of his wife Margarete, who died nine days after him, the couple's resting place in the Old Cemetery was given a tomb. It consisted of a multi-segmented grave slab with now weathered ornaments and an inscription plaque embedded in the cemetery wall. This first design of the tomb was carried out by the Bonn master builder Ludwig Lunde.

The tomb was too simple for the Prussian Crown Prince, later Friedrich Wilhelm IV . He had studied with Niebuhr and admired him; therefore he commissioned Carl Friedrich Schinkel with a new design of the grave monument. Schinkel submitted several drafts until the royal client was satisfied. In his finally accepted design, the artist deliberately referred to the Verona tomb architecture of the 14th century. Niebuhr did research in Verona.

The wall grave is divided into three vertical fields, the middle part being marked by an aedicule . Two angel consoles support the pillars and pilasters of the aedicula. These supports are provided with Corinthian capitals and support the gable-shaped roof of the tomb.

A false sarcophagus rests on the base plate of the aedicule and is decorated with a marble relief depicting the Niebuhrs. The relief is based on an ancient Roman model that is in the Vatican's art collections . The couple shake hands in a dignified farewell posture. Their clothing consists of Greek robes. A medallion of Christ is attached above the relief of the couple, which is surrounded by a circular inscription with a saying from the Gospel of John : I am the first and the last and the living.

The marble work for the relief designed by Schinkel was made in the name of Crown Prince Christian Daniel Rauch. Oil paintings , silhouettes and Niebuhr's death mask were available to the artist as templates for his work.

Schumann grave

Grave of Robert and Clara Schumann

The most famous monument in the old cemetery is the tomb for Robert Schumann . For his wife, her husband's monument was supposed to be “something symbolic, which artistically represents the characteristics of my husband” (from a letter from Clara Schumann , July 1874). Adolf von Donndorf was commissioned to design the tomb with this in mind. The execution was carried out by his student, the Württemberg sculptor Wilhelm Rösch, during his stay in Rome in 1878/1879.

A large Schumann Festival (August 17-19, 1873) and numerous donations raised the funds for the memorial in the 1870s. The mayor of Bonn, Leopold Kaufmann at the time, chose the site so that the new memorial had enough space to take effect. Adolf von Donndorf worked for several years with the design of the monument and with its execution. Finally, it was ceremoniously unveiled on May 2nd, 1880 in the presence of Clara and her children and friends.

The authors of Der Alte Friedhof in Bonn write about the symbolism of the monument : “Through allegories, Donndorf wants to express the meaning of the eternal in a meaningful way, and even more, to visibly show the magical power of the song the empire in which he ruled. Clara kneels as a muse at the foot of the monument, in one hand holding the wreath of immortality that she wants to offer Robert and in the other holding a roll of music. Her figure is wrapped in a timeless Greek garb. There is no pain, not even sadness, in her features. The violin putto on the opposite side is taken from the early Italian Renaissance. It not only embodies the touching grace of innocent children, but the boy playing the violin is an easily understandable symbol of the deep pleasure in music. On the other side of the monument there is a somewhat puzzling figure, a reading elf, probably embodying the connection to the realm of the song. The swan that flies up to the medallion with the profile portrait of the master, as an animal sacred to Baldur, the god of light, corresponds to the time interest in Germanic mythology, " while Josef Niesen says: " The swan, symbol of purity and companion of souls, also stands for Schumann's incessant things Composition and his own "swan song" (...) What is striking about the formal language of the tomb is the complete renunciation of any Christian eschatological symbolism, which has been replaced by allegorical figures from the realm of Greek mythology. The pain in expression is completely absent, in favor a solemn but almost childlike-naive cheerfulness. Only the butterfly wings of the singing psyche point to the beyond: the butterfly as a symbol of the immortal soul that leaves the body on earth. " For him, the "tomb, as a culturally and historically important testimony to the Wilhelminian era, is the successful attempt to harmoniously combine various stylistic elements from different epochs in a single work, turning away from pure classicism."

Monument protection

The cemetery and the tombs and buildings such as the St. George's Chapel located on it are since 1984 as a monument under monument protection and the gem in its "List. § 3 DSchG NRW registered monuments, ground monuments, movable monuments and monument areas of the city of Bonn ”in the list of monuments.


The main entrance of the old cemetery can be reached on foot in ten minutes from the market square. The way from the main portal of the main train station to the western entrance of the burial place is even shorter .

From March 1 to October 31, standard tours of the Old Cemetery are offered on Saturdays and Sundays. They start at 2 p.m. at the main entrance on Bornheimer Straße.

See also


  • Bernhard Baedorf: The old cemetery in Bonn on the Rhine. Municipal Transport Office Bonn 1927.
  • Gerd Bermbach: The old cemetery in Bonn on the Rhine. Park maintenance. Nümbrecht, Bonn 1993.
  • Peter Bloch: Sculptures of the 19th Century in the Rhineland , Düsseldorf 1975.
  • Edith Ennen, Helmut Hellberg, Walter Holzhausen , Gert Schroers: The old cemetery in Bonn. Bonn: Stollfuss 1955, 1981, 1986. ISBN 3-922832-00-8 .
  • Edmund Gassner: The old cemetery in Bonn. in: Bonner Geschichtsblätter. Bonn 1980. ISSN  0068-0052
  • Helmut Hellberg: The Schumann monument on the old cemetery in Bonn. in: Bonner Geschichtsblätter. Bonn 1981. ISSN  0068-0052
  • Josef Niesen , Bonn monuments and their builders , Königswinter 2013. ISBN 978-3-943883-52-7 .
  • Gotthard Werner: Lesser known graves in the old cemetery in Bonn. in: Bonner Geschichtsblätter. Bonn 1958. ISSN  0068-0052
  • Bettina-Martine Wolter: The Niebuhr tomb on the old cemetery in Bonn. Master thesis. Bonn 1984.
  • Erika Zander, Jörg Bätz: The old cemetery in Bonn. Art and history (s). Bonn: Bouvier 2001. ISBN 3-416-02961-5 .

Web links

Commons : Alter Friedhof Bonn  - Collection of images

Individual evidence

  1. a b quot. in: Edith Ennen, Helmut Hellberg, Walter Holzhausen, Gert Schroers: The old cemetery in Bonn. Bonn: 1981, p. 10.
  2. Erika Zander, Jörg Bätz: The old cemetery in Bonn. Art and history (s). Bonn: 2001, p. 19.
  3. cit. in: Edith Ennen, Helmut Hellberg, Walter Holzhausen, Gert Schroers: The old cemetery in Bonn. Bonn: 1981, p. 78.
  4. Edith Ennen, Helmut Hellberg, Walter Holzhausen, Gert Schroers: The old cemetery in Bonn. Bonn: 1981, p. 78.
  5. Josef Niesen, Bonn monuments and their builders, Königswinter 2013, p. 32 ff.
  6. Josef Niesen, Bonn monuments and their builders, Königswinter 2013, p. 34.
  7. ^ Kerstin Walter: Monument protection on cemeteries. In: Landschaftsverband Rheinland , Udo Mainzer (Ed.): Yearbook of the Rheinische Denkmalpflege 40/41 , Wernersche Verlagsgesellschaft, Worms 2009, ISBN 978-3-88462-288-9 , pp. 107–117 (here: p. 112).
  8. List of monuments of the city of Bonn (as of March 15, 2019), p. 4, number A 706
  9. ^ City of Bonn - List of monuments

Coordinates: 50 ° 44 ′ 9 ″  N , 7 ° 5 ′ 25 ″  E

This version was added to the list of excellent articles on November 20, 2005 .