1086 Budapest, Fiumei ut 16.
Kerepesi, formally known as the Fiumei Steet Graveyard, is the oldest Christian cemetery still in use in Budapest, and is also one of Europe’s largest national pantheons. It was established in 1847. The Kerepesi Cemetery is the final resting place of famous Hungarians. Numerous mausoleums of important families and individuals are to be found here. Among others, Lajos Batthyány, Ferenc Deák, Lajos Kossuth, and Mihály Vörösmarty were laid to rest here. The list of the outstanding individuals – scientists, artists, statesmen – is seemingly endless, as is the number of the tombs that are in themselves works of art. Endre Ady, Attila József, Kálmán Mikszáth, Zsigmond Móricz, Lujza Blaha, numerous sculptors, artists, and architects like Alajos Stróbl and Ödön Lechner, are among those buried in Kerepesi cemetery. Hungarian communists who were condemned to death in the show-trials of 1949 were buried on a separate plot. In the 1950’s the cemetery was declared closed for burials of the general public, and thereafter, mainly left wing politicians were buried here with national ceremony. In 1993 József Antall, the prime minister of the first democratically-elected government after the socialist era, was buried here. Europe’s only ‘Museum of Reverence’ (Kegyeleti Múzeum) on burial culture can be found in the graveyard. Guided tours must be pre-booked.
A short history of the Cemetery in Fiumei street (Kerepes Cemetery)
Kerepesi Cemetery (Fiumei Street Graveyard), Budapest Kerepes Cemetery is one of the oldest churchyards in Hungary that has been preserved in its contagious entity. It is one of the most complete “National Pantheons” all over Europe, where great protagonists of our history and culture (politicians, artists, scientists) rest. In the Reform Era a number of small cemeteries were used in the territory of Pest and Buda. By the 1840’s they were full and hindered the expansion of the communities. In 1847 the town council of Pest resolved to establish a large public cemetery in the “Kerepes fields” beyond the boundaries of the town. The first burials were carried out only after the Liberty War of 1848/49. Initially it was basically the burial ground of wealthy burger families in Pest. Retaining its functions as a public cemetery, “Kerepesi” became a cemetery of honour as well by the latter half of the nineteenth century. Outstanding personalities of the Hungarian nation – politicians, authors, artists, scientists – were granted tombs of honour there. The necessity of a “National Pantheon” was raised by Count István Széchenyi as early as 1841, in his work entitled “Kelet népe” (People of Orient). He imagined the location of such “Fountain of Sabration” somewhere in the hills of Buda, but the Kerepes Cemetery ultimately began to acquire its function as a burial ground.
In 1855 it was the poet Mihály Vörösmarty, the first person of distinction, who was buried there. His funeral was also a silent protest against Alexander Bach’s tyranny. Then the greatest Hungarians found final resting place in this Cemetery. A few great men of the 19th century, whose names cannot be found here – with the locations of their tombs put in brackets – are Mihály Csokonai Vitéz (Debrecen), Ferenc Kölcsey (Szatmárcseke), István Széchenyi (Nagycenk), Imre Madách (Alsósztregova, Slovakia). The great men of Transylvania are buried in the Házsongárd Cemetery in Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca).
To relieve the Kerepes Cemetery, the New Public Cemetery was opened at Rákoskeresztúr in 1886. The Farkasrét Cemetery was established in Buda in 1894. As a result, the character of the Kerepes Cemetery as a place of honour was still more accentuated.
With the inner-urban cemeteries in Pest and Buda having been liquidated, a number of persons of renown were granted final place of rest in Kerepes Cemetery. For example, Károly Kisfaludy’s mortal remains were re-located from the Váci-street cemetery (now the site of Lehel square); Sándor Petőfi’s parents were transferred from the cemetery of neighbouring Józsefváros (Joseph ward); the soldiers of 1848/49 were exhumed from the Németvölgy Cemetery (now Gesztenyéskert in Buda). The remains of “Hungarian Jacobins” were found during the liquidation of Tabán Cemetery, and were then transferred to Kerepesi Cemetery.
The great mausoleums (Ganz, Batthyány, Deák and at last, Kossuth sepulcural structures), Árkádsor (Arcades Row) and the Mortuary were erected in the years between 1867 and 1919. The process of granting tombs of honour was going on in the first half of the 20th century. The Artist’s Parcel was established in 1928. That “museal” parcel reflects essentially the conditions of the 1930’s even today. The Cemetery was a little transformed in the decades after the Second World War. Its central area was converted into a park; its character as a public cemetery fell into the background. The Pantheon of the Workers’ Movement was completed by 1959 and other parcels of this kind were also opened. János Kádár, too, was buried there in 1989. The notabilities of cultural life were granted tombs of honour in Farkasrét Cemetery.
Again, a number of changes were introduced after 1990. The parcel of the heroes of the 1956 liberty war was landscaped and converted into a park. In 1993 prime minister József Antall was buried in a tomb close to Deák’s mausoleum. Public funerals were commenced in 1994 in the vacant churchyard of parcel 42 and in new Sepulchral vaults of parcel 26. Then the Mediterranean burial park of “Fiumei” was also brought on stream.
Today Kerepes Cemetery has dual functions. On the one hand, as a National Burial Garden, it is preserving the traditions of Hungary’s past, the memories of its outstanding personalities. Owing to its artistic values, it is the largest open-air park of sculptures in Europe, with protected green areas, rich botanic stock. On the other hand, it is a revived public cemetery of exclusive configuration, in an aesthetic park environment.
The Kerepes Cemetery has a large area covering 56 aeres. A walk route is recommended for the visitors, including the most remarkable areas.
The Cemetery is located on a busy street, Fiumei ut, across from what I think is a hospital. You enter about 200 yards down from a corner that is currently undergoing construction (It looks as if the tram line is getting extended or repaired). A guard, or at least an attendant sits to the left past the pedestrian gate, cars and bikes may enter as well. The cemetery is a crisscross of streets and paths that are laid out in a very logical order. To an outsider, the grave sites themselves, do not appear to be placed logically. Some are close together or by a pathway, others dot the middle of grassy fields. A few clusters of smaller graves are established around the larger monuments, presumably it is an honor to be buried in the shadow of more pronounced greatness. The monuments range from simple wooden crosses, to manicured gardens (most of the cemetery is scarcely mowed or weeded), to huge stone constructions several stories tall. The tree lined walks keep visitors cool on a hot summer day. Well worth the walk.