A Day at Kerepesi Cemetery

A couple of weeks ago we ran an article about taking kids to cemeteries. Well, my mother is here visiting from the US, and we spent the day at Kerepesi Cemetery, here in Budapest. We brought a picnic lunch, wandered through the woods, did some grave rubbings, took some photos, and had a great time, so I thought I’d do a follow-up.

My six year-old decided that he didn’t want a photo assignment, where I give him a checklist of items to shoot, but just wanted to do his own thing. Here are some of his shots.

His first photo of the day.

I didn’t notice this at the time, but exactly what part of the angel is this female figure grabbing? Hmmm.

Seated figures on the tomb of Count Lajos Batthyány.

Doors on the tomb of Batthyany.

Lajos Batthyány was the first Prime Minister of Hungary after the 1848 Revolution against the Hapsburgs. He was captured in Pest in 1849 and sentenced to death, but tried to kill himself by slitting his jugular vein with a small sword smuggled into his cell by his wife. The suicide attempt failed, and he was later drugged, taken outside, and shot in the head. His remains were moved to the mausoleum at Kerepesi in 1870.

Grave in a section of the cemetery dedicated to those involved in the 1956 Revolution.

In 1956 the Hungarians once again rose up to cast out the oppressor, this time the Soviet-backed government and the State Security Police (AVH). To everyone’s surprise, the revolt was at first spectacularly successful, until the Soviet tanks rolled in. All over Budapest you can still find many buildings pocked by gunfire, and at Kerepesi there are moving monuments dedicated to those killed in the uprising.

List of names, ages, and occupations of those killed in the 1956 uprising.

The most heartbreaking are the youngest, of course, such as Jozsef Ferenc Moll, aged 9, occupation, student. This photo was taken by me, not my son.

Tomb statue covered with ivy

The back of the cemetery has been largely left to revert to forest, and the woods are dotted with tombs gradually yielding to nature. Birds find it a welcome reserve in the midst of the city, and today we even saw a fox bounding out of sight into the brush.

Tomb of Kossuth Lajos

Lajos Kossuth was a key leader in the 1848 Revolution, and one of the most important pro-democracy advocates of his time. After the revolution failed, Kossuth fled to Turkey, where he was eventually joined by his family. In 1852 he traveled to the United States, where he was feted as a revolutionary hero. He met with Abraham Lincoln, who called him the “most worthy and distinguished representative of the cause of civil and religious liberty on the continent of Europe.” Kossuth died in Turin in 1894, and his body was returned to Budapest and interred at Kerepesi Cemetery. A bust of Kossuth can be found in the US Capitol Building, and Kossuth County, Iowa, and the towns of Kossuth, Ohio and Kossuth, Mississippi, are named in his honor.

Eroded statues

Figure with head in hands

Kerepesi is simply one of the greatest, and most atmospheric, outdoor statue gardens in Europe.

Doing a grave rubbing

Grave rubbing of a cross and willow

Grave rubbing with text

The first time my oldest son did a grave rubbing, he shouted to his mom, “Mom, come here, it’s magic!” And in a way it is – just rub the paper with your pencil and words and pictures magically appear.

So, I just wanted to post this little follow-up as an encouragement to get your kids to the graveyard. As I wrote before, it doesn’t have to be a place as grand or historically important as Kerepesi Cemetery. Your local burying ground is sure to have interesting sights and lessons to offer. Long Live the Dead!

6 thoughts on “A Day at Kerepesi Cemetery

  1. Pingback: A defense of grave rubbing: fun but controversial – History Hermann

  2. Nice outing for your family. I grew up visiting the Hazsongard graveyard in Cluj (RO), not only with my parents, but later on with my friends and fellow students; always found something new and we always enjoyed the quiet and serenity of the place. Thanks for this article 🙂


    • Thanks for your comments, AnOrdinaryDad! Definitely look into your local cemeteries. Great places to teach kids a bit of history. And I think you’re right about her holding the cross, but the thought of groping an angel amuses me more.


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