Městský ústřední hřbitov / Central Municipal Cemetery

(Plzeň 4) Plzeň Doubravka
GPS: 49.747513, 13.432896

Since the end of the 18th century when Emperor Joseph II issued a ban on burial within towns, Pilsen’s residents were predominantly buried in suburban cemeteries at the churches of All Saints at Roudná and at St. Nicholas in today's Mikulášské Square. Both cemeteries had been enlarged over the years, yet their capacity gradually ceased to be sufficient in the second half of the 19th century. In 1894, the district government issued a decision to close the cemeteries that had been used hitherto and build a new one further beyond the city’s borders.

The City of Pilsen approached the surrounding villages with the idea of ​​establishing a large central cemetery. Most of them, however, already had their own cemeteries or used the cemetery at the church of St. George in Doubravka (today a city suburb). Thus only the village of Hradiště and the Jewish Religious Community joined in the project. Land along the main road to Prague, today's Rokycanská Avenue, was selected for the planned construction. The Jewish and Christian cemeteries were designed as separate areas on the opposite sides of the road. The project was prepared under the direction of architect Josef Farkač, an employee of the City Technical Authority, who was the author of most of the architectural elements in both cemeteries.

The Jewish Cemetery, completed in 1898, was built along the southern edge of today's Rokycanská Avenue. The only building on the premises was a small ceremonial hall. Like the entire cemetery, it was built in a Historicist style with Neo-Romanesque and Neo-Gothic elements. The cemetery was damaged during the German invasion of 1939 but ultimately managed to avoid destruction during the period of war. After February 1948 it was transferred to the administration of socialist state institutions. In the following decades, maintenance of the site was increasingly neglected and the graveyard gradually became overgrown and dilapidated. It underwent a significant intervention during adaptations of Rokycanská Avenue in the 1980s. Due to the planned extension of the road, the cemetery wall and ceremonial hall were torn down. A new wall was built in the 1990s from concrete panels.

The Christian section of the central cemetery was established between 1897 and 1902. In its original form, it was based on a regular symmetrical ground plan; the symmetry was later disturbed by the expansion of the premises eastwards. Most of the frontal side facing the main road is made up of elongated volumes of cemetery arcades, which are joined with administrative buildings in the entrance area. A courtyard with two symmetrically situated gates was created between them. This area is closed by a Neo-Romanesque funeral chapel of St. Wenceslas, whose high prismatic tower in the main façade dominates the entire cemetery premises. The current appearance of the cemetery is the result of significant enlargements made to it in 1907 and 1908. While the original area was symmetrically set up along an axis formed by the courtyard and the funeral chapel, the layout of the newer area rests upon a simple checkerboard structure. Between these two areas, which are not directly adjacent, a space for a park was created.

In response to the growing popularity of burial by cremation, which was officially enacted in 1919 one year after the foundation of the democratic state of Czechoslovakia, the city decided to build its own crematorium with a columbarium in the 1920s. The conservative Austro-Hungarian monarchy with a strong Catholic tradition did not support the construction of crematoria, so the first realisations of this type in the Czech lands came only in the period of the First Czechoslovak Republic. The building project (C13–173A) was developed in 1923 by architect Hanuš Zápal together with his colleague from the Municipal Technical Authority engineer Karel Werstadt, who was commissioned to design the technological equipment.

Zápal’s passion for the concept of a forest cemetery found its expression in the design of the adjacent urn grove, which, instead of opulently decorated tombstones arranged along regular paths, made use of the pious atmosphere of a forest environment with harmoniously incorporated tombstones. Following this concept, which the architect became acquainted with during his study tour of German and Swiss cemeteries, he integrated the urn grove in Pilsen into an existing forest on the eastern edge of the grounds.

Due to growing public interest in Pilsen for burial by cremation, the city had a new columbarium (C13–173B) built already in 1932-1933, this time according to a project by Otakar Gschwind, another Municipal Technical Authority architect. The inside urn courtyard of the Functionalist site, separated from the crematorium building by a reinforced concrete fence, is connected to the urn grove by staircases located at the extreme points of the galleries.

The Municipal Central Cemetery became the final resting place of a number of the city’s prominent figures such as writer Karel Klostermann or Pilsen Mayor Václav Peták, whose tombstones were designed by Hanuš Zápal. It is also home to the honorary tombs of Jiří Trnka, Josef Skupa, Augustin Němejc, Ladislav Sutnar, Gustav Habrman, Ladislav Lábek, or Heliodor Píka – a legionnaire executed in Bory Prison in 1949 after a fabricated trial.