I took a trip to Antwerp last week and couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to explore one of the most famous graveyards of Belgium: Schoonselhof. Located in the district of Hoboken just outside of the city, the cemetery covers over 200 acres. In fact, it is so big I didn’t get to see everything.
The property of Schoonselhof was purchased by the city in 1911 and opened as a public cemetery in 1921. The cemetery is set up as a park, with long lanes, a wide variety of trees and well kept flowerbeds. It is a great place to take a walk and pay a visit to countless famous Belgians who have found their final resting place among the trees and birds.
Schoonselhof is filled with countless gorgeous grave monuments. I think the reason why I especially enjoy the grandeur of big sculptures and over the top monuments is because in the Netherlands the art at graveyards tends to be a lot more reserved. Especially in comparison with countries like France and Italy, where each grave is really a work of art. In the Netherlands most of the cemeteries are very clean and simple, with plain headstones, apart from a couple monuments that are the exception to the rule. Schoonselhof really gave me the sense of being abroad; although Belgium is right next to the Netherlands, the exquisiteness of the art made me feel as if I was in a different part of the world.
My favorite grave is the mausoleum of the Pecher family. The three men who are buried here were politicians and war heroes. I went inside the mausoleum, which was my first entry into a mausoleum ever. I thought it would be a spooky thing to do but it was more the idea of entering this “house of the dead” that gave me the creeps, than actually being inside.
A lot of grave monuments are individually customized in remembrance of the deceased, often decorated with photographic portraits or even life-like sculptures.
One area of the cemetery that did give me the creeps, was this field with all kinds of random graves that were going to be removed soon. The energy here felt very intense and fragmented, like there was too much going on and not all of the souls that came here to rest were actually peacefully at rest…
Also a little bit creepy, but in a good-gorgeous-creepy kind of way, is this grave in which a looming veiled presence rises up from above and captures another being down below.
One of the most notable people buried at Schoonselhof is Hendrik Conscience, who was a Belgian author and is considered as the pioneer of Dutch-language literature in Flanders with over 100 publications on his name. His most popular work is a historical novel entitled “The Lion of Flanders“. His impressive grave monument was created by sculptor Frans Joris and unites Henrik with his beloved lion.
There’s so much to see here you can easily spend an entire afternoon wandering about the different fields, exploring all the different monuments.
Schoonselhof is a gorgeous cemetery, incredibly rich in history and well worth a visit. What is your favorite cemetery? Leave a comment below if you have any recommendations for cemeteries for me to visit!