Before the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte, the deceased Venetians were buried adjacent to the parish church they belonged to - as the nizioleti of campi and calli still remember today - and only benefactors and nobles could have the privilege of being buried in monumental tombs, whether they churches or cloisters.
With the edict of Sant-Cloud of 12 June 1804, the island of San Cristoforo della Pace was chosen, positioned in front of the Fondamenta Nuove, as the ideal place to host the city cemetery, being able to guarantee the burial of the deceased at the outside the inhabited center and therefore hygiene. This decision involved the demolition of the pre-existing church and monastery; the construction of the monumental complex, which was not particularly appreciated by the people, was entrusted to Gianantonio Selva.
However, it was soon realized that the small space available for burials was not sufficient to contain all the bodies of the deceased, therefore it was decided to expand it using the extension of the Island of San Michele, which in the meantime in 1823 it was purchased by the Municipality; the river that divided the two islets was buried and on 2 August 1839 there was the blessing of the patriarch. Annibale Forcellini from Treviso won the competition and defined the project by showing numerous points in common with the Milan Cemetery; the works were completed in 1876. The final result sought to reduce the living costs of the factory by favoring a simple and essential structure over one full of frills.
The Camposanto shows a Greek cross plan inserted in a square and an elliptical-shaped terminal part. The perimeter is marked by a solid red brick boundary wall which is itself circumscribed by Istrian stone; inside, the numerous tomb monuments are organized into sections cataloged according to Roman numerals or letters of the alphabet. Until 1950 the cemetery was accessed from the historic entrance in front of Fondamenta Nuove and on November 1 of each year, the day of the commemoration of the dead, a pontoon bridge was built, like the one that is positioned for the feast of the Redeemer, which allowed to cross the lagoon and connected Venice to the island.
Today, coming down from the imbacadero, one enters through a small side opening that leads to the Chapel of San Rocco, surrounded by more than thirty minor chapels, a space that acts as a glue between the oldest and most recent area. In the corners of the Forcellini's cross there are four enclosures that communicate with the main part and at the corners of each of these there are small chapels with individual niches incorporated into the surrounding walls. The final ovoid-shaped part is divided into two sectors: the western one which houses the remains of ecclesiastics and religious while the eastern one is reserved for fallen soldiers.
Crossing an avenue of tall cypress trees you reach the Church of San Cristoforo which was perpetually entrusted to the Archconfraternity of San Cristoforo in 1865. The building is also the work of the Treviso architect Forcellini with some alterations by Angelo Davanzo while the interiors feature mosaics of Antonio Castman.
n the mid-twentieth century the sculptor Napoleone Martinuzzi was commissioned for some bas-relief decorations of the access portals to the various enclosures, so that they could counteract the artistic flattening resulting from the scarce economic resources invested. There are two elegant cloisters paved with stone of Monselice in the eighteenth century: the first, the Small Cloister, meets immediately after passing the Gothic entrance portal, composed of an irregular plan and a well in the middle while the Great Cloister was built by Giovanni Buora and three of its sides enclose the magnolia garden.
The numerous funeral monuments, some of which finely adorned in the neoclassical style of the post-Canova school, are interspersed with mighty laurel trees, oaks, maples, magnolias, silver and Austrian pines, araucaria in addition to rose gardens and hedges. Among others, countless famous personalities are buried in the cemetery, including: the musician Luigi Nono, the historians Giulio Lorenzetti and Pompeo Molmenti, the writers Carlo and Gasparo Gozzi, the actor Cesco Baseggio, the playwrights Riccardo Selvatico and Giacinto Gallina, the painters Virgilio Guidi, Emilio Vedova and Mario De Luigi, composers Ermanno Wolf Ferrari and Igor Stravinskij (in addition to Giacomo Manzù's tombstone), the family of the second Venetian wife of the actor Anthony Quinn, the painter-collector Italico Brass, the poets Josif A. Brodskij and Ezra L. Pound, the psychiatrist Franco Basaglia, the scientist Christian Doppler, the creator of the "Ballets russes" Sergej Diaghilev. The cloisters house the remains of the architect Giuseppe Jappelli and the poet-patriot Alessandro Poerio.
The special departments reserved for the Evangelical and Greek-Orthodox Churches are privately owned and therefore not municipal, in addition to the enclosure number XVII in which the crematorium and cinerary erected by the Venetian Society for Cremation in 1889 are present.