Rookwood Necropolis


Rookwood is the largest in the cemetery in the southern hemisphere. But instead of calling it a cemetery, it really is a Necropolis. With 1 million graves (over 600,000 burials and 200,000 cremations), the cemetery is divided into many sections with different governing groups. There are sections dedicated to Chinese, Jewish, Anglican, Quaker, Lutheran, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Islamic, Independent, Presbyterian, and war graves. But smaller cultural division emerge among these geographical boundaries such as a clear division between the Italian and Irish families within the Roman Catholic section. The cemetery is so big that old graves have not been removed or destroyed and so different headstones reflecting changing styles and patterns throughout the history of the cemetery in a clear way. You can see in that the photos could be from four or five different landscapes, but in fact it is just one. Cremation also created different options for burial style, and in the center there is a romantic memorial garden connected to the crematorium. Ashes are buried or scattered and lives re remembered with a small plaque connected to a tree or flower bush.

My visit to Rookwood brought many memories of my visit to Ohlsdorf, the fourth largest cemetery in the world, but the largest rural cemetery. Rookwood is the sixth largest cemetery in the world and the largest Victorian style cemetery. (Side Note: 5/10 of the largest cemeteries are located in the United States. The United Kingdom, Iraq, and Turkey also make the list. I thought China would be on there, but many of the cemeteries were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in the 60- 7o’s when cremation became a mandatory practice.) However, Rookwood felt less coherent than Ohlsdorf due to the diversity of immigrant groups that settled in Australia and are subsequently buried here. Although people might say that we are all equal in death, I don’t think that is true looking at this landscape.

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