Melaten cemetery

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The original chapel was consecrated in 1245 by the Archbishop of Cologne, Konrad von Hochstaden . Today's patronage of St. John and St. Mary Magdalene
Replica of the "Cologne" rattle man (original in the Zeughausmuseum) in the cemetery wall
The grim reaper, " landmark " of Melaten

The Melaten cemetery is the central cemetery of Cologne . It is located on the northern border of the Lindenthal district in the Cologne-Lindenthal district . It is bounded by Aachener Strasse to the south, Piusstrasse to the east, Oskar-Jäger-Strasse and Melatengürtel to the west, and Weinsbergstrasse to the north. The 435,000 m² cemetery is the largest in Cologne in terms of the number of graves (55,540; 2008).

The name "Melaten" comes from the home for the sick and lepers, the Melaten farm , which was documented here in the 12th century . In 1243 the "hoff to Malaten" was first mentioned in a document. The chapel of St. Maria Magdalena and Lazarus dates from 1245. The Rabenstein execution site was on the other side of Aachener Straße .


Creation of the Melatenfriedhof

During the French occupation of Cologne, which began on October 6, 1794, the funeral system changed through an imperial decree on burials ("Décret sur les sépultures"), issued by Napoleon on June 12, 1804. For hygienic reasons in particular, it banned funerals inside cities, villages and closed buildings.

The city administration therefore bought a piece of land on the site of the former leper asylum and had most of the buildings demolished. The chapel of the leper home was integrated into the cemetery. Ferdinand Franz Wallraf was commissioned to design the cemetery , who took the Paris Père Lachaise cemetery as a model. He described his plans in the 1809 publication “About the new Stadtkölnischen Kirchhof zu Melaten”. From the beginning, he also planned the cemetery as a recreation area and as a public green area . On June 29, 1810, the cathedral pastor Michael Joseph DuMont inaugurated the Melatenfriedhof and the cemeteries within the city were closed. The first burial took place here on July 1, 1810.

The cemetery was officially called "Gottesacker der Stadt Köln"; until 1829 only Catholics were allowed to be buried there. The Protestants were buried in the old Geusen cemetery in Weyertal, Jews up to the construction of the Jewish cemetery in 1903 in Deutz on the right bank of the Rhine . Despite several extensions to the cemetery, it became too small over time. To his relief was opened in 1896 the North Cemetery , 1901 the South Cemetery and 1917 the West cemetery and in 1946 the Eastern Cemetery .

Melaten in World War II

Memorial stone for over 100 bomb victims in the cemetery, 1944

Melaten has been destroyed several times in the course of history. The former chapel of the leper home, which was repaired by Wallraf (1809) and Vincenz Statz (1850), was destroyed in 1942 and restored in a simplified way in 1952. The worst devastation was caused by aerial bombs on October 30 and 31, 1944. A memorial stone commemorates the more than 100 people of a wedding party who were bombed in a bunker on the edge of the cemetery at the gate to Aachener Straße. The imposing tomb for Wallraf and Johann Heinrich Richartz was also lost in World War II. Today only a simple tombstone reminds of both of them. After the Second World War, bombed out people temporarily looked for shelter and apartments in the tombs .

Melaten today


Map of the cemetery
Newly created thematic burial gardens

The 435,000 m² cemetery consists of the Alten Ehrenfeld cemetery to the north on Weinsbergstrasse and the Melaten cemetery in the narrower sense. Both parts border on the Melaten Belt on an independently managed Jewish cemetery that is not accessible to the public . The Melaten cemetery is divided by a grid of rectangular paths; two main routes lead north from Aachener Strasse, both of which are crossed roughly in the middle by the east-west axis. In total there are 55,000 graves in the Melaten cemetery.

The oldest cemetery wall with the former main gate (Gate II) runs along Aachener Straße and dates from 1810. In 1874 and 1887, further entrances (Gate I and Gate III) were built east and west of Gate II, and in 1957 the new main entrance the Piusstrasse. Today the Melaten cemetery has six public entrances, three of them on Aachener Straße and one each on Piusstraße, Weinsbergstraße and Melatengürtel.

Mourning halls

The old mourning hall was built in neo-Romanesque form in 1880/81 according to designs by Heinrich Wiethase . Around 1916 a longitudinal axis was extended to the north, and Hans Verbeek and his colleague Klewitz created a classicist component with a loggia-like porch. After severe damage during the Second World War, it was rebuilt with a makeshift flat roof. It was not until 1955 that the new main entrance on Piusstraße was designed according to plans by Fritz Schaller and a significantly larger mourning hall was built there. As a result, the old hall finally lost its function and served only as a storage room for a long time. On the occasion of the desolate condition of the building - the old mourning hall must not be entered - the working group "Monument of the Month" in the Rhenish Association for Monument Preservation and Landscape Protection presented the building as Monument of the Month August 2013 .

Fritz Schaller's new mourning hall


The chapel of St. Maria Magdalena and Lazarus , consecrated in 1245 by the Archbishop of Cologne, Konrad von Hochstaden , is located on Aachener Straße. After a renovation in 1475, it received that of St. Mary Magdalene alongside the patronage of St. John. In 2019 she received a new electronic organ from Kisselbach, which was inaugurated by the Saarland concert organist Lucas Kluck on November 1st. Cologne citizens are keen to revive and restore this almost forgotten historical site.


At the old main entrance on Aachener Straße there is the inscription "Funeribus Agrippinensium Sacer Locus" (for the corpses of Cologne sacred place) above the archway. Further inscriptions on the side of the gate read: "Ave In Beatius Aevum Seposta Seges" (Greetings to you, seeds sown for a better future) and "Transi Non Sine Votis Mox Noster" (Do not pass by without pious prayers, you, soon ours).

Flora and fauna

Planting plan Melaten 1826
by Maximilian Friedrich Weyhe

While the cemetery was only sparsely planted at the beginning, this was to change from 1826 onwards due to the planting plan of the garden architect Maximilian Friedrich Weyhe , but his plan was only partially implemented for cost reasons. The main paths and the east-west axis, on which the most expensive graves are located, were planted with high, light avenues made of plane trees ( ancient death trees or mourning trees), the side paths with medium-high linden trees and rose bushes. Later, in the course of the expansions, the simpler tombs were joined by trees of life, maples, birches, weeping elms, Japanese cherry trees and trumpet trees. Some hallways are framed by hedges.

Over 40 species of birds live and breed in the Melatenfriedhof. Greenfinches , blue tits , woodpeckers , blackbirds , starlings or jackdaws , robins and bullfinches can be seen at the feeding stations and watering holes . Also collared and Alexandrine Parakeet , whose ancestors probably escaped from pet stores or the zoo, have adapted (as in many Cologne parks) to the prevailing conditions.

Squirrels , bats , feral cats and foxes round off the range of animals.


Listed as a historical monument in 1980, the Melatenfriedhof is now an attractive destination, especially because of the many celebrities buried here, the interesting tombs and the park-like character of the complex, which is an ecological niche in the middle of the city. The system of designating fields, corridors and paths confuses some visitors because it is inconclusive; in addition, the field stones are often difficult to decipher.

Several times a year, guided tours of the cemetery are offered on weekends. At night or late in the evening, animal lovers can explore the wildlife on Melaten under supervision. For older citizens there is a free car service that drives them as close as possible to the graves.

Some of the greats of the Cologne Carnival (e.g. Willi Ostermann ) are in the cemetery . During the "fifth season", the Cologne Carnival, there are guided tours to the graves of well-known carnivalists, where visitors can learn stories and anecdotes about the deceased. The city of Cologne, among others, offers free tours. The Cologne City Association of the Nature Conservation Union ( NABU ) also offers natural history tours outside of the general opening times.

Sponsorship system

Encouraged by city curator Hiltrud Kier in 1981 and now adopted by many cities, the institute of grave sponsorship was established. A sponsor selects a listed grave complex whose right of use has expired, and then maintains and maintains it. In return, the sponsor has the right to burial in this grave site. User fees are only incurred after a new funeral. The name of the previously buried person could be engraved on the back of the new tombstone or moved there or the old inscription e.g. B. be covered with a plate. According to the new regulation, the original inscription must remain visible in the old place; new burials can be marked with plaques in front of the old grave.

A sponsorship grave and at the same time one of the most famous tombs on Melaten is the Grim Reaper, created by the sculptor August Schmiemann for the merchant Johann Müllemeister. The figure is holding an hourglass in the right hand and a scythe in the left hand. The godparents of this grave site, the Steinnus family of stonemasons, had their little son Martin buried there. They decorated the grave site with a frog, based on his nickname "Little Frog " . The Grim Reaper is located on the western main path, between hallways 82 and 76 B. The sponsorship system used to be one of three options for being buried in the Melatenfriedhof. The other two reasons were the place of residence in the parish, to which the Melatenfriedhof belongs, and the honorary citizenship of the city of Cologne. Due to the growing number of urn and anonymous burials, there is now an overhang of burial space, so that the Melaten cemetery was opened to residents of all parts of Cologne.

Celebrities on Melaten

Gravestone for Wolfgang Anheisser
Tombstone for Hans Böckler
Gravestone for Theo Burauen
Burial chapel on the main path; Sophia Czory's resting place
Gravestone for Arno Faust
Gravestone for Maria Clementine Martin
Family grave of the Millowitschs
Gravestone for Nicolaus A. Otto
Simple tombstone for Wallraf and Richartz . The imposing original tombs were destroyed in the Second World War.
Gravestone for Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski
Family crypt of the Deichmanns

(the corridor in brackets)

Meanings: HWG = eastern main route; MA = east-west axis (central axis, called “Millionallee”); Lit. (Littera = letter) = route marking; E (1-20) = hallway in the old Ehrenfeld cemetery






  • Josef Abt & Wolfgang Vomm: The Cologne Melaten Cemetery . 1986, ISBN 3-7743-0182-4
  • Josef Abt, Johann Ralf Beines & Celia Körper-Leupold: Melaten Cemetery: Cologne Graves and History . Cologne 1997, Greven Verlag, ISBN 3-7743-0305-3
  • Armin Beuscher, Asja Bölke, Günter Leitner, Antje Löhr-Sieberg & Anselm Weyer: Melaten tells of Protestant life. A tour. Published by Annette Scholl on behalf of the Evangelical Community of Cologne . 2010, ISBN 978-3-942186-01-8
  • Hilde Cornelius & Cornelia Geiecke: Living past: artists, works of art, Cologne residents at the Melaten cemetery , ISBN 3-929769-43-3
  • Ayhan Demirci: Melaten: Myth and Legends . 1996, ISBN 3-87909-479-9
  • Peter Guckel: The bird with the stone. A tomb in the Melatenfriedhof in Cologne - a reflection . 2005, ISBN 3-934233-03-1
  • Irmgart Hort: Lepers in Melaten: Rules for Diagnosing Disease, around 1540/1580 , in: Joachim Deeters / Johannes Helmrath (ed.): Sources for the history of the city of Cologne Vol. 2, Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Times (1396–1794), Bachem Cologne 1996 pp. 168–173 ISBN 3-7616-1285-0
  • Franz Irsigler / Arnold Lassotta: beggars and jugglers, dirnen and executioners , dtv Munich 9th edition 2001, especially the chapter "Lepers", pp. 69–86 ISBN 3-423-30075-2
  • Hermann Kinder : My Melaten. The Methuselah novel , Frankfurt am Main, 2006
  • GH Klövekorn: The leprosy in Cologne , Leverkusen 1966
  • Günter Leitner: Cemeteries in Cologne - in the middle of life. 2003, ISBN 978-3-936333-01-5
  • Josef Mahlmeister : The Cologne Melaten Cemetery and the Vienna Central Cemetery. Photo book with angel pictures , Palabros de Cologne, Cologne am Rhein, 2010, ISBN 978-3-9810559-8-6
  • Wolfgang Oelsner: A guided tour through the Cologne carnival at the Melaten cemetery . 1998 2nd edition, ISBN 3-9806384-0-5
  • Ilona Priebe: Melaten cemetery on foot . 2004, ISBN 3-7616-1806-9
  • Detlef Rick: Melaten. Graves tell the history of the city . 2006, ISBN 978-3-89705-476-9 (a comprehensive guide with detailed maps)
  • Max-Leo Schwering: Cologne. Braunsfeld - Melaten (Publications of the Cologne City Museum Volume 6, edited by Werner Schäfke ) , with contributions by Wolfram Hagspiel , Ulrich S. Soénius and Matthias von der Bank, Cologne 2004, ISBN 3-927396-93-1 .
  • Wolfgang Stöcker: The last rooms. Death and funeral culture in the Rhineland since the late 18th century , 2006, ISBN 3-412-29105-6 ; with text and images on the Melatenfriedhof
  • Martin Uhrmacher : So we find you as an eynen sick and seichen manne ... Cologne as the center of leprosy show for the Rhineland in the Middle Ages and early modern times , in: Die Klapper. Journal of the Society for Leprosy, Volume 8, 2000 Online
  • Marianne Vogt-Werling and Michael Werling : The Melaten Cemetery in Cologne. All monuments and their future , Greven, Cologne 2010, ISBN 978-3-7743-0471-0 .
  • Gerlinde Volland: Mourning in a female form. Grave sculpture around 1900 using the example of the Melaten cemetery in Cologne. In: Preservation of monuments in the Rhineland, 1/1998

Web links

Commons : Melaten-Friedhof  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Josef Abt, Johannes Ralf Beines, Celia Körber-Leupold: Melaten. Cologne graves and history. Cologne 1997.
  2. Heribert Rösgen: Monument of the month: It looks sad at the Melatenfriedhof. Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, August 29, 2013, accessed on December 15, 2019 (German).
  3. ^ Monument protection and maintenance of grave complexes. In: Retrieved October 30, 2018 .
  4. burial place. In: Retrieved April 1, 2019 .

Coordinates: 50 ° 56 ′ 22 ″  N , 6 ° 55 ′ 9 ″  E