Northern Cemetery Angel Walk

Dunedin’s Northern Cemetery, opened in 1872, contains more than 17,000 burials, representing a cross-section of the city’s population from its earliest days to the 1930s.

In late Victorian Dunedin, death was a lot more visible than today, and the impressiveness of the funeral monuments was considered of the utmost importance. Elaborate and expensive monuments meant high social status.

This trail takes you to twelve angel carvings which are a testimony to a set of values vastly different from those of today. Most of the monuments were carved by Italian masons and imported to New Zealand. Some would have an equivalent monetary value of around $100,000 today.

Popular belief had it that infants and young children turned into angels when they died because they were free from sin. However, most of the angels in the Northern Cemetery are dedicated to adults. In this case, the angels are the messengers of God and guardians of the soul. They inhabit the threshold between this world and the next and function as a guide for the spirit as it parts from the body and ascends to the next stage.

The twelve angel carvings on this trail offer a fascinating variety of styles and forms. See how the one child’s grave differs from the adults’ graves. Look also for the various emblems and symbols. The trail will take about an hour.

This trail was produced by the Southern Heritage Trust. Printed brochures of this and several other Northern Cemetery trails are available from the Sexton's Cottage .


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