The Matthews Monument at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bellissimo Cimitero

Nicola Marion, born the 15th October 1917, died the 21st July 1918.
North & South Cemetery, Tobyhanna, PA

I don't know a lot about the Italian culture of the 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States, but I have found some lovely tombstones and cemeteries in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  Some of these tombstones illustrate the skills of Italian masons, as many of them are handmade from concrete.  Some are even decorated with mosaic tiles.  There are more traditional stones made of marble or granite, too, but I like the handmade ones the best.

One of another common feature of Italian tombstones is the use of porcelain ornaments adorned with a portrait of the deceased.  Porcelain portraits are not unique to Italians, but were also very common in burial traditions of Southern Europeans and of the emigrants from these areas that came to America.  Too many times, unfortunately, the portrait is worn away from the elements, or worse, has been pried off by a souvenir hunter (rule of thumb:  take only photographs, leave only footprints).  But on occasion, the portraits have survived into this century, and they are captivating, as you stare into the eyes of the one who lies under your feet.  It's eerie, too.

Many of the inscriptions are in Italian, and I have been using a website to help me translate the words.  One interesting mystery I stumbled upon concerns a dilapidated and almost completely abandoned early-20th century cemetery in Jessup, PA, a small borough near Scranton.  Jessup is in the center of the coal mine region and during the early 1900's, many immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe settled there and did the hard, dirty and dangerous work deep in the mines.  There was (and still is) a large Italian population in Jessup, which is why I was surprised to find this cemetery so neglected.  I am not even sure of its name, and the only reason my parents and I found it is because it is in the woods at the edge of an active Slovakian Roman Catholic cemetery. 

Many of the tombstones in this Italian cemetery have inscriptions on it that proclaim the deceased was a member of the "Fratello Della Nuova Societie Italia Tripoli."   That translates to "The Brotherhood of the New Society of Italy/Tripoli."   I have not yet been able to definitively identify this, but I think it might have been a fraternal society for Italians who either had lived in Tripoli (the capital city of Libya) or who had fought in the 1911 Italian war against the Ottoman Turks.  Italy won the war and annexed Tripoli, which it held until 1943, when Allied forces in WWII captured it.  So these deceased Italian immigrants might have lived in Tripoli before the war, or been part of the colonization of it after the war.  Another R.I.P. for me.....Research In Progress!!

Jessup is well-known in Northeastern Pennsylvania for its Saint Ubaldo Day, an Italian outdoor festival that celebrates the beloved Italian bishop, Ubaldo Baldassini, and takes place on May 15th,  the anniversary of Ubaldo's death.  Many of the Italian immigrants that settled in Jessup were from the part of Italy known as the Province of Perugia, which includes the town of Gubbio.  Ubaldo was the Protector of Gubbio.  The Italian immigrants brought the tradition of La Festa Dei Ceri, or the Festival of the Candles, to the New World in the early 1900's.  The Italian festival celebrates the life of Ubaldo, and it has taken place on May 15th since 1160.  Originally the participants carried candles through the streets and to the burial place of Ubaldo, but over the years, the candles gave way to just three large wooden structures, carried by just a few but followed by the masses.  The three structures represent St. Ubaldo, St. George and St. Anthony.  In Jessup, the Saint Ubaldo celebration today includes the "Running of the Saints" through the streets, as participants follow a chosen few who carry statues of the Saints Ubaldo, George and Anthony.  I wonder how many of those Italians buried in this hidden Jessup cemetery took part in the early Ubaldo celebrations in the young streets of Jessup?

Enjoy these photographs that tell the final chapter of some Italian immigrants.  If you have any information for me about this, please email me at  Many thanks!

Homemade cross of concrete, St. Matthew's Cemetery, Conshohocken, PA

"Here lies Salvator E. Lupatel, he died well the 29th November 1916, born in Cantiano the 5th of July 1877, erected by the Friends of E.P.P.O.F., an Italian fraternal organization??, Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

"Born in Pasceluro the 23rd April 1890, died in Jessup, PA the 22nd December, 1916," Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

Loosely, "He is climbing the grand staircase to heaven," Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

At the bottom, "Leaves his wife and daughter.  A Brother of the New Society of Italy Tripoli," Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

Handmade Marker, Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

"Here lies Ciunchi Antonio, born August 18, 1880, died Feb. 14, 1920, put in his memory," Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

"Here lies Luigi Calli born the 9th of March 1878, died the 25 of February 1920.  Leaves a wife and children.  A Brother of the New Society of Italy Tripoli."  Italian Cemetery, Jessups, PA

Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

The opening probably once held a photograph of the deceased and probably had a glass insert.  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

Few of these men lived past 40, life in the mines saw to that.  Guglielmo Paoletti was 26, and he left parents and cousins to mourn him.  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

This has some beautiful ivy and berries carving on it, plus it once held a photograph.  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

I wonder what this opening held?  Possibly momentos of the deceased, behind a glass pane?  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

"Here lies Orfeo Taramelli, died at the age of 4 years 12 months [maybe] in a tragic death taken by God, his family mourns, RIP"  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

A sister, I think, of the above, died tragically at the age of 5, leaving family to mourn.  It's sad in any language.  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

You can see how neglected this small burial ground is.  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

This one is missing is convex porcelain portrait of the deceased.  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

"1889-1914"  What used to be in here?  Was there a glass covering?  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

Another missing porcelain portrait.  Domenico Turissini was born in San Daniele in the province of Udine, Italy, died age 32.  "His brothers mourn him."  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

Many of these tombstone here also once had chains marking the metes and bounds of the grave.  Some of them have concrete "beds."  This one is missing its porcelain portrait.  Francesco Collovino was also from San Daniele, Italy, and "his village remembers him."  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

"Here lies little Claudina Troiani, one year old, her parents mourn her."  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

Giovanna Alunni is missing her photograph and glass insert.  She died at age 23.  "Her husband passed away previously."  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

Sante Mattei, born 1892, died 1921.  "Member of the New Society Italy Tripoli of Jessup, PA, the Society and Sisters of P.O.F."  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

Angelo Stefanelli might be the oldest person buried here, he died age 61.  "His family wishes him to rest in peace."  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

"Al capo angioletto" means "the head angel," as Stanislao Vaomarelli ? was barely a month old when he died.  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

"Here lies the corpse of Gabrielle Cassani, who died at age 39 in 1922.  Remembered by the New Society Italy Tripoli of Jessup, PA."  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

"Here lies America Alumio?, born 26 August 1918, went to heaven the same day."  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

The best I can find on the internet is "Beloved and Brave Leopoldo Ferreiro, died 1929."  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

Anselmo Mengoni died in 1925, age 41, with a wife and children left behind to mourn him.  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

Giuseppe Borgna died at age 29 in 1914, and that was the misfortune of his wife, his sister and brother-in-law who leave this remembrance, may he rest in peace.  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

A family memorial, here lies Gualtiero Alunno, not even a month old.  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

"Here lies the corpse of Enrico Trebuzzi, born in the Italian municipal district of Sassaferrato in 1884.  At age 31, he died accidentally in Jessup on the day of Sept 25, 1915.  His mother, sisters and brother desolately leave this memorial."  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

"In memory of the late Girolamo Fagnani, born 1881, died 1916, (age 35).  He "abandoned" his wife and children.  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

Pietro Mattei was born in Old Forge, PA (on the other side of Scranton) in 1895, died in 1916.  Very hard to read the middle section, but the bottom states he was a member of the New Society of Italy Tripoli.  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

Handmade tombstone for Giovanni Troiano,  Most of the bottom transcription is gone.  Italian Cemetery, Jessup, PA

Angiolina Marino, daughter of Santo, born 1899, died 1918.  North and South Cemetery, Tobyhanna, PA

This beautiful purple glass ornament is clouded and the photograph inside, if it hasn't disintegrated, cannot be seen. Damn.  This memorializes Maria & Nazzareno Panfili; she died in 1915, age 46, he in 1925, age 64.  Their children grieve.  St. Francesco Italian Cemetery, Eynon, PA  (a little to the north of Jessup)

Interesting homemade stone with decoration.  The plaque on the bottom might denote a fraternal organization--Chapter 289, Eynon, PA, Improved.....P.O....." but I might be wrong.  St. Francesco Italian Cemetery, Eynon, PA

"Ubaldo Leri died in the green age of 27 years.  Lost his life in the mine Feb 1919.  His wife and children grieve."  Also buried here is Girolamo Panuzzi, 1885-1935.  The plaque at the very bottom is illegible, and the circular opening at the top is missing a portrait, probably.  St. Francesco Italian Cemetery, Eynon, PA

The resting place of Basilio Marsili (1882-1921) and probably his children, Carlo (1918-1922) and Lucia (1885-1885).  St. Francesco Italian Cemetery, Eynon, PA    

Definitely a miner, with his pick and shovel carved above his name.  Nazzareno Attoni was from the Island of Possara, also Spello, Italy (in Umbria), died in 1914, age 45, his friends and family mourn.  St. Francesco Italian Cemetery, Eynon, PA

This is one of the rare surviving photographs, a young boy who died tragically young.  I think his name was Beni Andrelli. St. Francesco Italian Cemetery, Eynon, PA  
Close-up of Beni Andrelli.  Breaks the heart, eh?  St. Francesco Italian Cemetery, Eynon, PA

This is an example of the convex porcelain portraits affixed on the tombstones.  Another Ubaldo, "a good and honest son and respected brother, born in Costa Ciaro? in 1888."  I think it says there was an unfortunate ? on 21 Mar and he died on 3 May 1914.  His mother and brother mourn.  At the bottom, "He rests with God."  St. Francesco Italian Cemetery, Eynon, PA

Handmade of concrete and a carved marble angel and plaque, but tough to read.  Virgilio Parlanti born in Perugia, Italy.  St. Francesco Italian Cemetery, Eynon, PA 

It looks like there was a photograph or porcelain portrait once inside the wreath.  Margharita Berardi, died 1910, age 19.  St. Francesco Italian Cemetery, Eynon, PA

This alcove probably once held a statue.  St. Matthew's Cemetery, Conshohocken, PA

"Here lies our friend and brother Pietro Fanelli, who died 15 February 1917 at the age of 47.  He is remembered by the Fraternal Association of Saints Cosma and Damian.  Peace and glory to him."  Saints Cosma and Damian were twin brothers born in what is now Turkey and died in 287 A.D.   They were physicians who took no money for their services.  Many of their patients were so moved, they converted to Christianity in their honor.  They were arrested and tortured by the Romans, but refused to recant their beliefs.   The fraternal society in their honor here in America started in 1926 in Massachussetts, by Italian immigrants.  This gravestone is in St. Matthew's Cemetery in Conshohocken, but I bet Fanelli was a member of the Sts. Cosmas and Damian Church in Conshohocken.  St. Matthew's Cemetery, Conshohocken, PA

This is hand-carved from native Pennsylvania red/brown sandstone.  Valda Mancini, 1910-1915.  Wyoming Cemetery, Wyoming, PA

Missing its porcelain portrait or photograph and glass covering.  Born 21 Jun 1881, died 20 October 1918.  Wyoming Cemetery, Wyoming, PA

A broken porcelain portrait, St. Joseph's Cemetery, East Bangor, PA
Two mid-20th century porcelain portraits, St. Joseph's Cemetery, East Bangor, PA
A close-up of Joseph Bubba, St. Joseph's Cemetery, East Bangor, PA

Madalena Cuono as a bride, St. Joseph's Cemetery, East Bangor, PA

A close-up of Madalena Cuono, St. Joseph's Cemetery, East Bangor, PA  (I am having a bad floral bridal flashback!)

St. Joseph's Cemetery, East Bangor, PA


Sadly, I did not record this man's name.  Italian Cemetery, Freeland, PA

Lawnview Cemetery, Rockledge, PA

Unfortunately, these are deteriorating.  What a beautiful piece it must have been in its prime.   Italian Cemetery, Freeland, PA

Dedicating this blog to an friend of mine who passed away on 2/15/2013.  Johnny Graziano, of Italian descent, was 25 years old.  Miss you, Johnny, and I wish you and your great, big heart eternal peace.  Love you.