Bring out your Belgian dead!

Running out of place to bury people is never a good situation. In 1866, a cholera epidemic swept through Brussels and swiftly killed more than 3,000. Well, that was a bit of a problem. Quickly, the Cemetery of the Dieweg got created to palliate overflowing morgues.

Belgians being obviously deficient in cemetery planning affairs, the new death venue got rapidly saturated. After 1945, inhumations grew rare. In 1958, it closed down. Slowly, nature took over.

The crosses became one with the trees.

Ground cover swallowed the stones.

Sporadic light piercing through forests of trees gave the graveyard an eerie feel.

The neighbourhood of Uccle where the cemetery is located is home to most of Brussels bourgeoisie. Some of the tombs lie adorned with impressive monuments to the glory of the great families. Some say we are all equal in death but, I’m sorry, some tombs are way better than others.

On one hand, gigantic statues, on the other, little Jesus with no legs. Equality? Come again!

Walking around, you wonder whether you are experiencing the ultimate romantic interlude,

Or whether when you reach the end of the “Sematary”, you’ll stumble upon the “deadfall.”

While absolutely unable to deal with death on any levels, I dig cemeteries. The Dieweg graveyard falling into the category of crazy weirdness, it rates second on my top ten list. It is no wonder that Herge, Tintin’s creator, obtained a special derogation to be interred in the closed down venue.

It is only closed to the dead people, the living are most welcome to visit.

32 responses to “Bring out your Belgian dead!

  1. Those are absolutely beautiful. Are they yours? If so, may I bum and beg until you allow me to showcase them on my site come October? I’m in cahoots to write about some of my family’s creepy stories for Halloween.

  2. The Dieweg graveyard looks absolutely like my kind of tourist destination… hmm that does sound rather odd now doesn’t it? In each city I visit I always seem to end up near or in a graveyard of history, perhaps it is to get to know the cities true past, feel their ancestors… Absolutely incredible photos, stunning!!!

  3. This looks like a Tim Burton backdrop. Or, in maintaining chronological accuracy, Tim Burton films look like Dieweg.

  4. The crosses became one with the wood.

    it is only closed to dead people, the living are most welcome to visit.

    inhumation.

    palliate.

    Your language struck me with this lovely pastry d’morte. Don’t tell me I didn’t spell it right cuz I just made the word up, OK?!

  5. Etonnant de decouvrir ce cimetiere que je ne connais pas de l’interieur! Belles photos. Bravo ma Lilipute!

  6. Great photos but I wouldn’t like to roam around there atnight, it’s kinda creepy…..

  7. Marvelous work, Nathalie, and I don’t just mean the photos. You really do a great job of giving images more life via your narrative. Splendid!

  8. The vines are integrated into the stone and the entire imagery is wrapped like a ball of eerie yarn, like the one you spin with your uniquely descriptive prose.

    Another fabulous exposure to a place I’m sure I’ll never see but have felt, just the same.

    Gorgeous work, my friend.

  9. Honeywine, welcome and where are you? Your username is not linked to any site. Get in touch!

    SanityFound, we do definitely share the same love for cemeteries or culture of the dead. Do you have anything good in South Africa that you can share? I have actually never been to an African cemetery. Get your camera and make me visit!

    Magnum! I love to have your visit as always. I’ve added your Penis in a Rowboat blog to my blogroll but it is now Weenie in a Rowboat. Sorry. I had to. It’s much more genteel this way. Please do not explore any new euphemisms. My peops just would not understand. I had not thought of Tim Burton, but yes indeed!!!

    Pat, I just gotta work on my death vocabulary. I just write so much about tombs… I fear redundancy!

    Kathy ma louloutte! Quelle agreable surprise! Tu ne vas quand meme pas me dire que tu n’as jamais ete au cimetiere du temps du Lycee! Meme pas la nuit? Juste pour rire? La prochaine fois qu’on est a Bru ensemble, on ira. Gros bisous!

    Tony, nighttime is the best time to go (but you have to scale the big wall.) The cemetery was close to my school so we visited it quite a lot. Nothing like the company of the dead! In all honesty, you would not catch me dead alone in this place! Unless I was. of course.

    Thanks Jason! I know very well you are just throwing compliments out of guilt, because you failed to evict my large spider before she laid 1,000 eggs in my yard. If I get bitten, you die my friend.

    Ah Bonnie, look who’s the talented writer! Between you and Pat, I can’t keep up. Except I do post much more often than you do! What is up with that? Both Pat and I make valiant efforts to entertain the community while you go on vacation and make chairs to benefit battered women. HELLO! You’ve got a blog to tend to!
    A site about the Virgin Islands linked to my AgFest story telling their readers they will recognize people they know on my photographs. I’m afraid the hood kats will come after me…

  10. WOW WOW WOW!
    It looks for all the world like a movie set. I would have a lot of fun poking around there with Short Stack. We have a favorite cemetery we go to on sunny days and he races around the stones and every so often, asks, “Whose one it this?” I read the name out and he says “Hi ___” and then zings off to another part of the grave yard. He even has one stone that he always visits. Some would call it creepy. I think it’s sweet.

    My immediate reaction after looking at your beautiful and poignant pictures is “I ought to clean that up and realign the stones.”

    Really gorgeous work, Nat.

  11. Amazing photos and great narrative. It makes me feel that I am there.

    I’m always at a loss for words when I visit your site. 🙂

  12. Just so I’m clear..I loved the language in addition to taking note of it. Also, I am also doing a deep, profound “Hmmmmm…” You write that you do so much about tombs, cemeteries, “culture of the dead”, know what words such as “unhumation” mean. You are on hold in Texas till your beloved dog goes to Big Sky… but actual human death/loss, like your Dad, you cannot even look at photographs of him seven years out. As I said, “Hmmmm…..” This is the raw material of a photo essay, my friend, if I know anything. And, “anything”, I know quite well…as in Jack of all, master of none. Just saying…just hoping.

  13. Seriously…you’re not a bad picture taker. Nicely done H! I’ve always thought cemetary’s, while a little creepy at night, can be beautiful places. You’re photos prove my theory.

  14. I’m surprised the place wasn’t teeming with goths. I’ve met people who’d live in such places if they could.

  15. LOL! That was a hysterical response, Nathalie. My hope is that the baby spiders won’t hang around too long after birth.

    Well, at least not all of them…

  16. Mr. Prawn, you leave my messy cemetery alone! No clean up! No picking up stones! No re-ar-ran-ging! Are you nuts? BUT you are welcome to come clean up my house anytime if that would make you feel better. It might be a whole lot more work than the Dieweg though. I could tell you that I’m the sort of messy person who knows where everything is but my pants would catch on fire immediately. Spontaneous combustion!

    Ross, you? At a loss for words? Ah! Is this even possible? No worries: you keep on posting those half-naked sexalicious photographs of yourself and you really don’t have to utter another word. Aaaah, I’m spontaneously combusting again!

    Pat. Such a nice try, you weasel. I am so not ready to face this. I love old dead but new dead? Not so much. You are right though. I should write about him. It would not be all good and certain things would have to come out that I’ve learned and that he never wanted us to know. Complicated soul… Possible Asperger. Would it be betrayal?

    Yoyoyo, Allan! Thank you. The Dieweg is indeed insane beautiful. You get a shot wherever you point the camera! Not that difficult to do a good job. I would think that some American cemeteries with the flat stones to facilitate the work of the lawnmowers would be much harder to photograph.

    Razz, I used to be a punk. Does this count?

    Jason, that’s my hope as well.

  17. Love them! Absolutely love them!

  18. Ah, Miss Weasel, here. Love that name, by the way, might adopt it.

    So, yes, here it is. The way in: explore betrayal.

    A photo essay on simple garden variety betrayal.

    See if it brings you to your father. The truth of him. The truth of you.

    But, don’t do it with him in mind. Use other experiences.

    Hey, let’s just call this weasel-thought, shall we?

  19. Anyone with father questions should have a look at Phillip Toledano’s site: http://dayswithmyfather.com/. Amazing.

  20. Brooks thanks for the URL, it was very touching.

  21. The first picture is mesmerizing and somehow calming.
    Your fascination with graveyards is extremely cool.

  22. Gosh. I love cemeteries, too. What does that say about us, I wonder? Here’s a link you might be interested in:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1563985/BBC-reveals-Britain's-most-unusual-epitaphs.html/

  23. That site Mt. Brooks recommended re father questions was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in my life. I just blindfolded myself and went to his site to tell him so. He never wears a shirt but writes as if fully dressed.

  24. Guys, you crashed this poor guy’s site! The URL is broken ;-(
    I checked out his editorial work at:
    http://mrtoledano.com/
    I’m in love.

  25. I just managed to visit the site Matt recommended and I’m writing this comment with tears streaming down my face.

  26. Oh, yeah, sweet nat. oh, yeah.

  27. I’m always making people cry, though it’s usually out of disappointment or outright anger. This is a nice change.

    Pass on the URL to those you care about.

    And Pat, thanks for the “fully clothed” endorsement.

  28. Mrs. Nip it in the Butt Diana, thanks for the visit! Glad your kid is okay!

    Weasel, I’m just not so sure about the betrayal business. I’ll take it under consideration for future things to tackle when given good meds.

    Magnum, I must have sent the link to a hundred people yesterday. I did not want to be the only one whose day was completely ruined. The photo of the father with the eye-mask is forever in my head. It is amazing how such a photograph could have turned out completely funny but made me weep. Thanks for sharing.

    Epicurienne, the page at the link you sent is no longer available. It sounded right up my alley. If you find another link for it, please send it. Thanks.

    Matt, wow, wait, you actually wrote a new post!!! Woohoo! I’m off to read it…

  29. Hello? Weasel here. Not being sure about this betrayal business? Yeah, so? Isn’t that where all art begins?

    Do you always know where you’re going on other projects or photo essays? Do you feel you know all the answers before you begin a portrait session with someone? A place? A group of family members gathered in Belgium to celebrate a mother’s birthday?

    Ok. I’m donning a helmet cuz I know you are picking up a rock right about now.

  30. Pingback: Weekly Fruit Salad 08 « SanityFound’s Rambling’s

  31. First of all, all of your photography is magnificent and your weblog, which I discovered only recently, is well worth daily visits.

    More to the point, your Brussels cemetery photos had an emotional and aesthetic impact that took me back to my own experience of photographing in the central cemetery in Sofia, Bulgaria a decade ago (for sample shots see: http://www.bubkes.org/2006/03/13#a93 — also for samples of my portraiture see http://www.bubkes.org/2006/07/30#a278 )

    Question: As you’ll notice for these sample shots, most of my work is “analogue,” i.e. b/w film in medium format (mostly shot with Rolleiflexes). The quality of your work is so pristine that it is hard for me to tell whether you shoot film or digital. If on film, could you tell me what technology/work-flow you use for scanning? If digital, could you let me know the camera and sensor type you use? I am about to purchase new digital equipment (I’m considering a Nikon D700 for serious work and a Ricoh GX200 for snapshots and studies) — any advice?

    Again, many thanks for sharing your work.

    Stephen Lewis

  32. Stephen, you are certainly most sweet and after viewing your photographs of the cemetery in Sofia, I can definitely see your point. I will email you in regard to the camera equipment otherwise I might get beat up by uninterested parties.

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