- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 18, 2006

ROME — Wealthy benefactors are stepping in to help save the dilapidated Protestant cemetery in Rome where the poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley are buried.

Charitable trusts are being set up in Britain and America to handle the money that has been given following an original donation of nearly $25,000 from the Italian jewelry company Bulgari, whose family members, originally Greek Orthodox, also are buried there.

The cemetery, where the first recorded burials began in 1784, suffered from its location at the heart of the Roman Catholic world, where the Vatican traditionally paid for the upkeep of public buildings, but not for those connected with other branches of Christianity.

It attracts 10,000 visitors a year, but has always relied on charitable donations, which are no longer enough to pay for the upkeep of the monuments.

For centuries, the Cimitero Acattolico di Roma was the only place in the city where non-Catholics could legally be buried and is situated in Testaccio outside the city walls.

In addition to the bones of the poets, the cemetery contains the remains of 2,500 persons, ranging from servants to noblemen, of more than 50 religious denominations. They include Antonio Gramsci, the founder of the Italian Communist Party.

The Bulgari donation will be used to improve the plant watering systems. “We hope this will cut down on running costs and reduce the amount of water used, as well as the amount of hand-watering, which contributes to the damage to the stones,” said Catherine Payling, treasurer of the cemetery, who is also the curator of Rome’s Keats-Shelley museum.

Nicola Bulgari, vice-chairman of the jewelry group, said: “My aim is to encourage others to help put this precious spot on a sound financial basis.”

The company was founded in 1884 by an immigrant Greek silversmith who opened a shop in Rome’s Via Sistina, and has since grown to an international concern.

Ms. Payling said some private and company donations had been received, which was why charitable trusts were being set up.

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