The historic Assistens Cemetery

Assistens Cemetery, the oldest part of which was first used in 1760, was a favourite destination for outings from the end of the 18th century. The Citizens of Copenhagen passed through Nørreport – one of four city-gates – to admire the magnificent sepulchral monuments at the “Assistens Cemeteries outside the City of Copenhagens´s Nørreport“, and to rest for a while on the peaceful, shadowy places round-about the cemetery.

The limited space of the original part of the cemetery – the actual museum part – resulted in a large extension of the cemetery area in 1805 – 1806. In connection with the planning of this area the doctor and architect Jens Bang prepared a plan inspired by the English landscape garden. Bang was quoted for having said “The most beautiful thing we can imagine is a garden laid out with bending paths, which will please the eye much more than the straight and long ones, that will seem tiring and boring”.

This arrangement came to nothing. It was difficult at that time to realize such a plan. In reality, several parish churches owned sections of the cemetery, an overall architectural plan was therefore bureaucratic.

Like any other citizen of Copenhagen Hans Christian Andersen came regularly at Assistens Cemetery. The death rate was high at that time, the number of burials you might attend was therefore great. But the cemetery was also used as a place where you could take a walk in “nature itself”. Hans Christian Andersen also used the cemetery as a place where he could be inspired, and where he could – in his mind – bury persons on whom he was annoyed:

“The local paper and the churchyard have always been my two most stimulating forms of exercise, my two happiest hunting grounds for good temper. Now, anyone can dip into the local paper, but come with me to the churchyard, let us go there when the sun is shining and the trees are green, let us walk among the graves, each of these is like a closed book with the back turned up, on which you can read the title telling us what the book contains”.

Today, the Assistens Cemetery is quite unique in the world, being at the same time both modern cemetery, museum and garden. The Cultural Centre arranges guided tours, events, concerts, theatre and exhibitions.