In this episode of our 'Writ in Water' series, the Keats-Shelley Prize Podcast talks to Nicholas Stanley-Price about the 300-year history of the Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome.
For poetry lovers, this is the place where both John Keats and PB Shelley are buried, not far from their friends Joseph Severn and Edward Trelawny, and also Shelley's 3-year-old son, William.
But the Cemetery's story is far longer and broader than that of these Romantic graves, which is why Nicholas is the perfect guide to steer us from its origins in Testaccio to its modern history in 21st century Rome, from Keats' funeral to the vexed question of what to call the Protestant/Non-Catholic/Acattolico Cemetery/Cimitero.
After a career which included high level posts at UNESCO, ICCROM (International Conservation Organization, Rome) and the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles, Nicholas settled in Rome and joined the Cemetery's Advisory Committee. He has written two books about its 300-year history: The Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome and The Graves in Rome of Keats and Shelley.
We talked on the bicentenary of Keats' funeral on 26th February 1821. I began by asking Nicholas about another bicentenary commemoration: the memorial service that marked the 200th anniversary of Keats' death, which took place at the Cemetery only a few days earlier. We rewound rapidly to explore the history of Testaccio in general and the Cemetery in particular before focussing on John Keats himself.
Nicholas narrated the events of Keats' funeral, before tracing the grave's slow rise in prominence as a place of pilgrimage. Having noted some famous early visitors - Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Henry James - we conclude by outlining the challenges facing the Cemetery in 2021 - Covid, conservation and how to balance its purpose as an active place of burial with its attractions as a tourist site.
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This podcast was written and presented by James Kidd. The KS Podcast theme tune is ‘Androids Always Escape’ by Chris Zabriskie. Visit http://chriszabriskie.com/