Connie’s View of Calvary Catholic Cemetery, Evanston, IL


West Entrance to Calvary Catholic Cemetery

Calvary Catholic Cemetery lies in Evanston, IL. Like several of the others we have visited it is full of very old and very lovely mausoleums.

Serving the Catholic Community Since 1837

The history of Catholic Cemeteries in the Archdiocese of Chicago actually predates establishment of the diocese. The first Catholic cemeteries were churchyard cemeteries of parishes in existence before the diocese was formed. Some of these cemeteries, still operating today, were Catholic burial grounds twenty five years before the opening of Calvary Cemetery, the oldest diocesan cemetery, in 1859.

Pinpointing actual dates is difficult because sometimes the cemetery started while the parish was still a mission, and sometimes after the parish was formed. The first Catholic cemeteries were not in Chicago proper but in the rural regions.

Unquestionably, the oldest Catholic Cemetery is St. James, Sag Bridge, which started making burials in the early 1830’s. By contrast, in the unincorporated settlement around Fort Dearborn, people were still being buried next to where they lived or in the fort cemetery.

Situated on a bluff overlooking the Des Plaines River near where Archer Avenue crosses it, St. James was predominantly settled by Irish immigrant laborers. Many of them worked on the Illinois-Michigan Canal which was started in 1830 and finished in 1848. Parts of the canal can still be seen in this part of the county.

In those days Chicago was part of the Diocese of Vincennes, and besides St. James, there were three other parishes which had cemeteries: St. Patrick, Athens (Lemont); Transfiguration, Wauconda; and St. James, New Strassburg (Sauk Village). In cemeteries like these one can find grave tablets with birthdates prior to the American Revolution.

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[google-map-v3 width=”350″ height=”350″ zoom=”12″ maptype=”ROADMAP” mapalign=”center” addmarkermashupbubble=”false” addmarkermashupbubble=”false” addmarkerlist=”Calvary Catholic Cemetery, Evanston, IL{}catholicgrave.png” maptypecontrol=”true” pancontrol=”true” zoomcontrol=”true” scalecontrol=”true” streetviewcontrol=”true” scrollwheelcontrol=”false” bubbleautopan=”true” showbike=”false” showtraffic=”false” showpanoramio=”false”] If you gave yourself enough time you could spend several hours in any of these cemeteries we have visited in the past few weeks. Each has a fascinating history and the most wonderfully Gothic statuary one could hope to see this side of the Atlantic. In a world where so much is disposable these monuments offer a glimpse into a time when longevity was supremely prized. It is difficult to image too many Protestant cemeteries with such ornate offerings. It is a tribute the Catholic sensibility that they venerate statues in the manner they do. Without their efforts most cemeteries of a 100 years ago would have flat headstones and little to find very attractive (at least here in the Midwest).