Holy Cross Cemetery is located on Richmond’s north side at First Avenue and Daniel Street. It was founded in 1874 to serve St. Mary’s Catholic Church on East Marshall Street, a parish of German immigrants. Until the twentieth century, Holy Cross was known as St. Mary’s Cemetery.

Section for Benedictine Sisters of Virginia, in Holy Cross Cemetery

The first Roman Catholic cemetery in the city had been Bishop’s Cemetery, established around 1850 to serve the Irish, English, and French members of St. Peter’s Catholic Church.

The rise in German-speaking immigrants prompted the creation of St. Mary’s, the second parish in the city, in the 1840s. With the growth of this community over the next several decades, the parish’s patrons, the Benedictine Society of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, purchased 10.5 acres to establish a cemetery for its purposes on land not far from Bishop’s Cemetery, the Barton Heights Cemeteries, and the city cemeteries near Bacon’s Quarter Branch.

Upon the cemetery’s opening, separate sections were set aside for priests and nuns. Provisions were also made to reinter within its bounds the remains of many parishioners previously laid to rest in Shockoe Hill Cemetery or Bishop’s Cemetery.

By the first decades of the twentieth century, membership in St. Mary’s parish had declined and the cemetery shifted to accommodate Catholics of all area parishes. A new name, Holy Cross Cemetery, came into usage in 1924 to reflect this shift. Additional land was added to the cemetery, which would ultimately total nearly 14 acres. Traditional memorial services would be held in the cemetery each year in November, near the time of All Soul’s Day.

In 1931, Angee Sitterding donated funding for the construction of a formal brick wall and massive gates surrounding the property.

In 1972, the cemetery received the remains of approximately 137 burials removed from Bishop’s Cemetery/St. Joseph’s.

A chapel and administrative building was added in the center of the cemetery in 1988. The cemetery continues to be cared for by a dedicated Board of Directors, attentive to the site’s history.

For more information, see:

Holy Cross Cemetery, Richmond, Va.

James W. Boehling, Holy Cross Cemetery, Founded 1874: A Brief History (Richmond: Dietz Press, 2006)

Joseph H. Hodges, St. Mary’s Church Centenary 1851-1951 (Richmond: 1951)

Ignatius Remke, Historical Sketch of St. Mary’s Church, Richmond, Virginia, 1843–1935 (Richmond: 1935)