WIT Press

Social Transformations In Burial Place Making: A Visibility Pattern Analysis Of Three Historical Cemeteries


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781 - 791




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WIT Press


E. Bazaraite, T. Heitor


The development of European burial grounds can be split into three periods: burial grounds in catacombs through Early Christianity, churchyard graveyards throughout the Middle Ages and a great shift in the 19th century, when cemeteries, considered a threat to public health, were taken away from city centres. The paper employs visibility graphs as a way to study burial places in different periods of Christian history in Southern Europe: Saint Callixtus catacombs, Les Saints Innocents cemetery and Père Lachaise cemetery. Every type of burial ground had its own cultural and political context that can be identified in the visibility graphs retrieved by Depthmap software, developed following the theory of Space Syntax. The visibility graphs presented in this paper show the distinct visibility pattern of each type of burial ground. Visibility conditions vary from one case to another and confirm the historical and cultural context of each type of burial ground. The first burial place is analysed through the historical context of the period. In the second, its internal structure is analysed using the data obtained from Depthmap software, focusing on the aspect of visibility inside the burial ground. Cemetery morphology analysis helps us to understand the patterns of European burial constructions. Such an approach encourages one to reflect on the social relations between the living and the dead, and the hierarchical arrangement of spaces, as well as sustainability issues that led each society to change its mode of burial. Configurative relations confirm the premise that a cemetery is able to indicate the religious situation of a period, and it reveals a city’s social scenery through the morphogenetic set of visibility patterns.


burial ground, graveyard, cemetery heritage, history of burial, space syntax, architecture for death, urban cemetery, cemetery architecture, historical cemeteries