After Georg von Calenberg elevated Hanover to the status of a residence in 1636, the city experienced a decades-long period of prosperity in the years that followed, attracting many people as good opportunities for work and earnings were on offer. Soon, however, the city proved too small for its inhabitants, so that they increasingly settled outside the city gates. They were mostly small farmers who had leased the land there from citizens of the city and lived mainly from the sale of fruit and vegetables. For this purpose, simple dwellings, so-called Katen, were built and small gardens were laid out, which were mostly separated from each other by hedge borders. The better equipped cottages often served as summer residences for wealthy citizens. Such gardens and houses also spread out in front of the Aegidienthore, and there was a need for the gardeners to provide for themselves and for hospitality. This later developed into a suburb with large residential buildings, such as the cemetery gardener’s residence on Heckenweg, built in 1849 (see Historical Images).
In 1741, the city bought the plot of land in front of the Aegidienthor, where the inn “Zu den drei Fasanen” had burned down in 1726, in order to establish a burial ground there, called “Neuer Kirchhof vor dem Aegidienthore” or “Gartenfriedhof” for short. At first it was only intended for the garden people – the population of the garden suburb. Later, however, members of bourgeois society and the upper classes were increasingly buried there. This is reflected in particular in the artistically designed gravestones with various grave symbols. The garden cemetery soon developed into one of the city’s most important cemeteries until it was closed in 1864 after approximately 12,000 burials.
Since the garden people did not belong to a municipal parish, a new parish was established for the inhabitants in front of the Aegidienthore in 1746 at the instigation of Mayor Ch. U. Grupen and on the orders of King George II, and the construction of a church began. The “New Church in front of Hanover” was built by master builder Johann Paul Heumann and consecrated in 1749. However, the name did not catch on. Instead, the name “Garden Church” was common. As the congregation grew over time and the church eventually became far too small, the dilapidated building was demolished in 1886. According to the plans of the architect Rudolph Eberhard Hillebrand, a new building was constructed between 1887 and 1891, the present Garden Church of St. Mary.
Numerous personalities who had rank and name in town and country were buried in the garden cemetery: Ch. Ludwig von Arnswaldt, F. Wilhelm Ch. von Dachenhausen, Ernst Ebeling, Georg Friedrich Grotefend, Ernst A. Heiliger, Caroline Herschel, George Ch. von Hinüber, Charlotte Kestner (nee. Buff), Christian L. A. Patje, Ernst August Rumann, Heinrich Philipp Sextro, Heinrich Tramm, and others more, especially from the so-called “pretty families” that formed the bourgeois upper class in 18th/19th century Electoral Hanover and the Kingdom of Hanover resp.
Today, the garden cemetery is a cultural monument that deserves special attention not only because of the personalities buried there. The gravestones with classicist and romantic style elements are also of special cultural-historical importance. Numerous inscriptions impressively describe the attitude to matters of faith during the era, especially the hope of resurrection and eternal life.
The Garden Cemetery is part of the project “Where they rest – Famous gravesites in historic cemeteries in Germany”, in which a web app with audio-visual information was developed for 37 nationally significant historic cemeteries.
The following link opens a table with 364 gravestones of the Garden Cemetery, which can still be assigned to persons from the originally existing 5,000 grave sites. It provides dates of birth and death as well as gravestone inscriptions, pictures and a site plan: Gravestones at the Garden Cemetery Hanover