Old Cemetery Bonn

A short historical portrait

Bonn, a former capital of the Electorate of Cologne in the Holy Roman Empire and also of West Germany after world war II, maintains a burial ground that dates back to 1715.

Historians record that this cemetery was the first to be built outside the city walls with authorization of Elector Joseph Clemens as an alternative emergency cemetery for people killed by epidemics.

A few of the oldest headstones in the cemetery

A few of the oldest headstones in the cemetery

Today, the cemetery is situated in the city center surrounded by major roads, residential and commercial buildings. It provides relics of ancient history and reflects a picture of Bonn’s admirable spiritual and educational culture. The architectural style and sculpture designs make this old cemetery in Bonn very popular in the whole of Germany.

Historical significance

Redesigned in the 19th century to provide a melancholic mood to visitors, this burial ground is a permanent resting home to few of Germany’s most famous musicians and professors. Under Elector Clemens August, the successor of Elector Joseph Clemens, the cemetery was transformed in 18th century to a burial ground for poor people and soldiers.

Today, the artistic designs of headstones impress visitors and its sculptures provide unique glance in the lives of the people buried in the cemetery.

This old cemetery is one of Germany's most visited cemeteries in recent years.

This old cemetery is one of Germany’s most visited cemeteries in recent years.

The portrait medal of August Wilhelm von Schlegel, one of the founding fathers of the University of Bonn, resonates Bonn’s academic history.

Componist Robert Schumann and wife Clara also attract many visitors to this legendary cemetery.

Adele Schopenhauer, Schiller’s wife Charlotte and his son Ernst, as well as Beethoven’s mother are buried here.

Other famous professors from Bonn including Ernst Moritz Arndt, Friedrich Argelander, Barthold Georg Niebuhr and Karl Simrock, were also laid to rest in this cemetery.

Protected monument

This cemetery is one of the few monuments in Germany today that was not severely destroyed in WW II. Some of its original headstones were exchanged because caretakers at the time didn’t see much reasons to preserve their history.

But when the German federal government decided to place the cemetery under its protection program of all national monuments, the city of Bonn and all interested groups were warned against changing anything in the cemetery without prior permission from the registry authorities.

The cemetery's architecture resonates Bonn's historical significance in German history.

The cemetery’s architecture resonates Bonn’s historical significance in German history.

The cemetery has stopped all further burial on the ground except for three reasons:

Firstly, if a relative of any of the deceased already buried in the cemetery passes away, an additional space can be created for the new deceased.

Secondly, all mayors of Bonn and their close relatives are privileged to be buried here.

Finally, long term residents of Bonn can win themselves spaces in the cemetery by choosing a grave and take the burden of regular care and maintenance until they are ready to be laid to rest.

The significance of this cemetery and its architecture has earned this cemetery the fourteenth place on Germany’s funeral award.

The Characters of the film

The film has two characters. One of them is an art historian, Erika Zander, and the other is Irina Vasilescu, a Romanian living in Bonn that has deep person for cemeteries.

Frau Zander..editedMrs. Zander has been working in the cemetery for a long while and has recently published a book about it. She works with an organization called Gesellschaft der Freunde und Förderer des alten Friedhofes in Bonn e.V. (Link: http://www.alter-friedhof-bonn.de/Herzlich_Willkommen.html) and organizes tours into the cemetery.


Ms. Vasilescu is a student at the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences and offers private piano lessons to individuals. Since she moved to Bonn in August 2011, Ms. Vasilescu has been a keen and passionate visitor to the cemetery and one of her favorite grave is composer Robert and wife Clara Schumann’s headstone.

The making of: photos

Personal note: I built the dolly used in the making of this film by myself.


  1. evesreflections says:

    The interviews are really great. Irina makes me look at cemeteries in a different way, though I still feel that the spirits are watching when I go past one 🙂

  2. Don’t be afraid, spirits don’t bite, except the monster ones in Hollywood that appear on your screen..

  3. fighterbrown says:

    Very well done! Reminds me of parts of Zentralfriedhof in Wien. Would you know if the Beethoven siblings who did not survive early childhood, and also the grandparents, are buried here? Is there a list online of cemetery “residents”? I will be in Bonn on a research trip later this year, and this information would be helpful. Thank you for creating this documentary!

    • Thanks for the compliments. Beethoven’s siblings were not buried at this cemetery. I do have a handout with a list of the residents at the cemetery but it’s not soft copy. However, since you are coming to Bonn, at the main entrance on Bornheimer street, back of the city hall (Stadthaus), you will find a long list of all those buried in the cemetery. Hope this information helps or check out this site of the caretakers. It’s in German though: http://www.alter-friedhof-bonn.de/Herzlich_Willkommen.html

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