This cemetery is of great interest for its natural, religious, historical, architectural and emotional aspects.
In ancient times, as in many other places, people were buried under the Ancient Basilica: still today many tombstones are visible with the names engraved in the pavement. In 1830 the burial was forbidden inside the churches: a new cemetery was then built. It was underground, under the first court of the sanctuary. The place was dark and the spaces so narrow that it was soon necessary to build another cemetery.
The project was designed in 1874 by the engineer Camusso, and includes numerous porticoes laid out in a semi-circular pattern with a central chapel
In 1884 the biellese statesman Quintino Sella died and for his burial the engineer Carlo Maggia built a pyramid. The monument, built in 1885 with blocks of local syenite, was located outside the cemetery, in the middle of a beech forest. Very soon, following the example of Sella, many important people decided to build a funerary chapel for themselves and their families in the same wood. Thus in 1888 a real “forest cemetery” was inaugurated.
Many important architects and engineers have worked here: Giò Feroggio e suo figlio Giulio, Nicola Mosso, Quinto Grupallo, Candido Porta, Arturo Rosazza, Crescentino Caselli, Giovanni Battista Carra.
During the fifties and sixties an anomalous and original model of chapels became popular in Oropa – and almost only here, because of the alpine environment: tombs were built as small mountain chalets, with wooden and stone roofs and with external plaster : a way of showing that death is nothing but a continuation of normal daily life.
Among the rich heritage of sculptures we appoint some of the most remarkable. Two internationally renowned artists: Leonardo Bistolfi from Casale Monferrato (1859-1933), the most important representative of symbolism in Italy, and Odoardo Tabacchi from Ardena di Brusimpiano, Varese (1831-1905), who taught sculpture at the Accademia Albertina in Turin for decades.
Photo by Marco Morraglia and Claudio Argentiero