Music festival at Prague’s largest cemetery to raise funds for neglected graves

Prague’s Olšany Cemetery

This coming Saturday, Prague’s Olšany Cemetery will be hosting a somewhat unusual one-day music festival called Mezi hroby or Between the Graves. The aim of the event is to raise money for the restoration of neglected graves that have a special artistic, historical or architectural significance, but also to invite members of the public to adopt them. I discussed these goals with one of its organizers, architect Filip Ditrich:

Grave of Louisa Kodlová | Photo: Mezi hroby / Between the Graves

“We wanted to help restore some old graves in our cemeteries, in particular here in the Olšany Cemetery. Some of them are really big and expensive to renovate, so we decided to organize a benefit concert to help raise the money for it.

“The second reason is to show the public that cemeteries are not just burial grounds. They are places where you can sit and contemplate and they can also serve to host special cultural events. So I hope our event is the right way to show this.”

Can you tell us more about the program for adoption of graves? When was it established and how does it work?

“The programme has been running for more than five years. Currently we have some 520 graves available for adoption, not only here at the Olšany Cemetery, but also in other cemeteries that the Prague Cemeteries and Funeral services is in charge of.

“Some 307 of them have already been adopted, but we are still looking for people who will be willing to take care of the remaining ones.”

The festival aims to highlight six of these graves that are available for adoption. Can you mention at least some of them?

Grave of Kocher Family | Photo: Mezi hroby / Between the Graves

“I can tell you about two of them. One is the gravestone of Luisa Kodlová, who is not a well-known personality. However, the grave design was made by the famous sculptor František Rous. It represents a broken branch or a dying tree, which is very interesting and unique. The second one is the grave of the Kocher family with a statue of Jesus Christ by the sculptor Alex Zelinka.”

Finally, can you tell us a little bit more about Saturday's program? What can people see or hear?

“There will be two stages. One is the open stage in the fifth sector of the old Olšany Cemetery and the second one is located inside the Eisner Tomb.

“We will have seven singers, including Jan Burian, Petr Linhart, who is known from the Majerovy brzdové tabulky band, and also guitar players Marie Puttnerová and Martin Novák, and I think all of them will be excellent.”

The project of adopting graves was launched by the Prague Funeral and Cemeteries Authority in 2013. People taking part in the programme select a grave with special artistic, historical or architectural significance, provide money for its renovation and look after it for a minimum period of ten years.