Mount Calvary cemetery was founded in 1885 by the Diocese of Richmond to serve the region’s Roman Catholics. Earlier Catholic cemeteries had been established in the area, including St. Joseph’s (also known as Bishop’s Cemetery) in the 1850s on the north side of town and Holy Cross to the northeast in 1874. Prior to these, Catholics had buried in St. John’s churchyard and in Shockoe Hill Cemetery.
With increasing population and prosperity, Catholics moved to claim a more prominent place in the city’s landscape, and a burial site like Mount Calvary, located on beautiful grounds just up the James River from the famed Hollywood Cemetery, served those ends. Some bodies from the earlier cemeteries were removed to Mount Calvary, which initially encompassed 72 acres. The entrance to the cemetery is located on S. Randolph Street, right next to the city’s Riverview Cemetery.
For the design of the cemetery, Bishop John J. Keane commissioned local engineer Collinson P. E. Burgwyn, who had recently arranged the new expansion at nearby Hollywood Cemetery. At Mount Calvary, Burgwyn focused his cruciform plan on a central ring. A tall crucifix stands atop a Gothic-themed base at its center with graves radiating outward. The cemetery is decorated with mausoleums, gravestones, sculptures, and curbed plots, highlighted by plantings and flowers. There are also sections set aside for women religious, such as the Franciscan sisters and the Little Sisters of the Poor.
A notable event in the cemetery’s history was the funeral procession in 1911 for the popular Bishop Augustine Van de Vyver, who succeeded Bishop Keane.
With over 30,000 burials, the cemetery today advertises that it “welcomes members of all faiths and ethnic origins.”
For more information see:
James W. Boehling, Holy Cross Cemetery, founded 1874: A Brief History (Richmond: Dietz Press, 2006)
W. Asbury Christian, Richmond: Her Past and Present (Richmond, L. H. Jenkins, 1912)