The San Michele Cemetery, Venice’s principal cemetery, is located on an island between Venice and Murano. Established in 1807, San Michele has been under continuous development for over 200 years, including its extension in 1839, when two islands were joined together (San Michele and San Cristoforo della Pace). In order to address the imbalance, developed gradually over the years, between its romantic outer face and its interior municipal character, the proposal aimed at redefining some of the cemetery’s original physical qualities.
Defined by three rectangular structures for burials, cremations or ossuaries, the guiding idea for the project is an organisational arrangement of courtyards, each varying in size and defined by blind enclosing walls and internal colonnades that echo the fifteenth-century cloister of San Michele nearby. In contrast to the existing linear arrangement of tombs in rows, the scheme draws the buildings, walls, tombs and landscape together, creating a more intimate enclosure and a sense of solidity. The three new structures are varied in size but held together by a diverse yet harmonious range of materials. The walls are clad in basalt and pietra d’Istria while the internal colonnades are made from dark grey concrete.
The scheme is to be completed over various stages. ’The Courtyard of the Four Evangelists’ was the first to be opened to the public in 2007 and still acts as an archetype of the whole arrangement. It features four smaller internal courtyards of varied sizes but which share similar characteristics, such as the basalt Istria-clad walls and pavements with inlaid text from the four gospels.
In 2017 the project was enlarged further towards northeast side of the cemetery. The development of this second section of the monumental complex includes the Ossuary of St John the Baptist, the Court of the Three Archangels and a warehouse area with a dock. The latter are distinguished by traditional, hand-made red bricks, with interiors formed from in-situ exposed concrete.
In 2013, the Ministry of Culture and Landscape declared the San Michele cemetery, Monastery and Church on the island to be of historical and artistic cultural interest and, as a result of this, the entire perimeter of the cemetery is subject to protection provision.