ST. NICHOLAS UKRAINIAN CEMETERY
8851 W. Higgins Road
Des Plaines, IL 60656
No Official Website
Bella Morte Rating: 1 Tombstone
Sitting on a narrow parcel of land that is far deeper than it is wide, this diminutive cemetery is not the sort of Victorian wonderland we here at Bella Morte favour. Indeed, it strikes even us as odd we would include it on our site; however, what the cemetery lacks in size and grandeur it makes up in tranquility and its surprising array of small bronzes. One caveat: our visit came at gloaming when the tangerine smoulder of the setting sun was shot through with deep hues of ochre and plum. That time of day is probably the best for taphophilic explorations, so we do acknowledge some of the pleasure derived during our visit may have owed more to the hour than the place itself. Such considerations notwithstanding, we do believe St. Nicholas Cemetery possesses native charms that make it worth stopping by should you happen to find yourself nearby. It is most-assuredly not a pilgrimage spot, however.
At the heart of the cemetery stands a large metal cross. This was erected in 1940 as a means of honouring the 950th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Ukraine. There is also a wholly unremarkable mausoleum at the furthest border of the burial grounds. Construction began in 1994 and the building was dedicated and blessed in 1996. Presently, more than half of the 470 crypts and 112 cremation niches are occupied or have been purchased pre-need. There are already plans in place for an addition and the administrators are seeking to purchase more space in the adjacent “forest.”
Unlike sprawling cemeteries where visitors with a taste for such things find themselves overwhelmed with choices regarding which inviting curve in the road to follow, St. Nicholas offers only one simple path which forms a “U.” It runs straight so the pavement is parallel with graves occupying both sides as well as the center area. Exploration is quite easy. Simply park and walk back and forth between the graves and you can cover the entire space in about an hour, even if strolling at a leisurely pace. Since many of the bronzes are quite small, it is best to take this approach. As is evident in our gallery, there are some very lovely pieces to behold.
Although the sign at the gate indicated St. Nicholas’ Cemetery closed at 5:00PM, our arrival came considerably after that. Even so, we found ourselves among a number of other visitors, all of whom seemed to be loved ones of the deceased. In fact, one family arrived with their own lawnmower to tend to the overgrowth around their particular grave! It seems safe to assume the cemetery is always open, so if it is on your agenda, schedule it towards the end of the day when Chicago’s panoply of truly dazzling burying grounds have been locked for the night.