Eternitatea Cemetery, the Pantheon of Iasi
The first project of a modern cemetery was initiated in 1853 by the scholar Gheorghe Asachi, who advanced the idea of establishing a necropolis of the city. The project, carried out according to his instructions by the Italian M. Croce, was made after the model of the cemeteries “Il Campo Santo” in Bologna and Pere Lachaise in Paris. The cemetery was to have a double role: to preserve the whole piety dedicated to the cult of the dead, but also to inspire a strong patriotic feeling, of national pride. However, only the proposed location was retained from this project, namely the place where the second city cemetery would be built in 1876 – the Galata cemetery.
The idea had already been applied in the French capital, which at the end of the eighteenth century had abolished the 300 medieval cemeteries due to sanitation and public health reasons, after long debates, in which the Church had assumed the role of main opposition factor. In more than half a century, in the capital of Moldova, the events would take place according to an almost similar scenario. A statistic from 1871 shows that in Iasi there were 48 Orthodox cemeteries, placed around the cult churches.
The spaces of the cemeteries were limited and often, the dead were buried almost on top of each other, causing the release of terrible miasmas. After the successive plague and cholera epidemics of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, overcrowded church cemeteries became a real public health concern. At the slightest earthquake or during floods, human remains would come to the surface. But there was another reason for the abolition of church cemeteries: the need for space. The parish cemeteries occupied quite large areas in the centre of the city, preventing the municipality from constructing public buildings: squares, parks, streets and buildings with an administrative function.
In 1864 the “Law of burials”, promulgated by Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza, which provided a legal framework for the establishment of public cemeteries came into being. The normative act provided for all cults to set up cemeteries at least 200 meters from the outskirts of the city and established a period of 18 months for construction and 15 years for the abolition of existing church cemeteries in cities. However, there was a big problem that made the law inapplicable: there were no adequate lands to which the Eforia of Iași had access.
Thus, in 1868, the jurist and senator Scarlat Pastia donated to Eforia Iași a land called “Via lui Enache Dragoș”, on the Tătărașilor hill. In his request addressed to the City Council, the philanthropist stated: “Since I wanted to see we have a cemetery set up, with the help of which to stop the many indecencies that take place to some churches and wanting to contribute as much as I can for the benefit of the commune where I live since a very young age, I bought for this purpose a certain spacious place called via lui Enachi Dragoș on that highest plateau of Tatarasi and which meets all the conditions required in order to establish a good cemetery ”(extract from File 70/1857, Eforia Iași Fund).
Scarlet Pastia also sets some conditions. First of all, the name (Eternitatea Cemetery), then imposed a two-year term for the completion of the arrangement according to the “example of the cemeteries abroad” and the construction of a paved street that would connect the cemetery to the city. He also asked to be provided, free of charge, a place of burial for his family.
The deed of donation, approved in 1869 by King Carol I, was registered and legalized by the decision of the Iasi County Court on April 18. Along the way, 3.6 hectares – via Măndinescu – bought by the commune were added to the donated land. This completes the land for the cemetery and as a result, at the insistence of Mayor C. Cristodulo Cherchez, in 1871 the engineer Bogus designed the main alleys – “a total of 24 roads, of which 16 are all concentrated in the area around the chapel.” Subsequently, over 2400 trees of different species were planted, with “an aesthetic purpose and especially for the public hygiene.” The plots, located between the alleys, were of seven categories and could be purchased according to the tariffs provided in the Burial Regulation. These costs depended on the place and duration required (10 years, 30 years or forever). The space around the church was reserved for clergy burials.
The chapel, the central point of the cemetery, was designed in 1871 by the architect and professor of the University of Iași Ştefan Emilian, the construction being executed between 1872-1873 under the guidance of the architect Mathias Nitschiman. The painting, made by the modern painter from Iași, Petre Verusi, a teacher at the School of Fine Arts, was widely criticized and later remade.
The place of worship was consecrated on June 21, 1875 and the official opening of the cemetery in which all the people of Iași were buried, “regardless of their rite”, took place on September 1, 1876. The application of the City Hall decision to abolish the cemeteries church and to move the “deceased” ones in the hill of Tatarasi aroused protests from the clergy and the population. Despite the public opposition, the cemetery entered the urban topography for good, becoming a space of memory, with its own identity.