Fluntern cemetery, Zürich

It’s been a while since I posted, with my dissertation taking over my summer, and other projects taking my focus. Finally I managed to squeeze in a trip to visit my brother in Zürich last month, and I visited the Fluntern Cemetery where James Joyce is buried. It’s in a lovely setting at the top of a hill on the outskirts of the city, beside the zoo. I found a lovely sculpture of a female form that reminded me of Henry Moore’s work , the dark stone really stood out against the vibrant greens and reds of the autumn foliage.


James Joyce’s grave was at the back of the cemetery, he had lived in Zürich from 1915 to 1920, then after 20 years living in Paris he moved back to Zürich after the Nazi occupation of France. He died after surgery and was buried in Fluntern cemetery after the Irish government refused to repatriate his body, even after burial. His grave has a beautiful sculpture of Joyce, created by Milton Hebald.


I was amazed by the variety of sculptures on headstones, Swiss cemeteries are very well organised with all the graves in neat rows and strict regulation about headstones. I was surprised that all the headstones were in such good condition until I discovered that in Switzerland cemeteries don’t expand over time to fit additional graves, graves are commonly rented for a period of 25 years. After 25 years the headstone is removed and the grave dug over so it can be reused, unless a family buys the land for their burial plot. In a country with an ageing population this is an interesting tradition, which saves space but means that historical grave architecture is less common. I loved the sculpture on this headstone, a male and female form flying through the air with lovely angles and lines.


There were very few religious headstones, just a couple of angels and some wooden crosses. Fluntern cemetery is very peaceful as there was barely any passing traffic, with only the zoo and some houses further along the road. It gave me an interesting insight into Swiss culture, and the huge variation of headstones, from simple wooden crosses to complex sculptures in styles similar to Moore and Rodin. It’s well worth a visit if you’re in Zürich.