The Catholic Cemetery in Doulab, Tehran, Iran
The origins of the Doulab Catholic Cemetery go back to the middle
of the 19th century. In 1855, the young Dr. Louis André Ernest Cloquet, personal
physician to Nassereddin Shah (cf.
died and was buried in a field situated in the Tehran district of Doulab, close to the
Armenian cemetery. This patch of land was to become the burial site for all
Catholics of Tehran, foreigners and locals. Dr. Cloquet’s tomb, bearing a
small brick cupola, can be seen up till the present day.
From the time of their arrival in Tehran in 1862, the
Lazarists, being the only Catholic priests in town, took charge of the
cemetery. In those days there were 87 Catholics living in Tehran, all of whom
were foreigners or Chaldeans. In 1886, Joseph Désiré Tholozan, an Armenian
officer of the Légion d’honneur and physician for the French mission
purchased the terrain for the cemetery. From that time on, the cemetery was at
the service of the Catholic community of Tehran, which became ever more numerous
The arrival of the Poles
In 1942 an estimated 120,000 Polish soldiers and civilians arrived on
the Iranian shore in Bandar Anzali. They had been released from Soviet captivity
and were to set up the Polish Army of the East under famous General Anders. Many
were so destitute and starved that they didn’t survive the hardships of the
journey and died upon their arrival in Iran or shortly thereafter.
That’s why the Polish Embassy purchased half of the terrain of the cemetery and arranged the
graves of their many fellow countrymen, that had died here in Tehran, in a
convenient and worthy way. For a full account of the history of the Poles in
Iran please refer to our “Further Reading” page.
In 1943 the Armenian Catholic community built their own
cemetery right next to the “Latin” one, the Chaldeans did the same in 1963, and
today the complex consists of five parts totalling about 76,000 m². In 2000 the
site was listed as a national cultural heritage item (No. 2688) by the Iranian
Cultural Heritage Organization (ICHTO).
Throughout the second half of the 20th century the cemetery
continued to serve the Catholic community. In average five burials were
held each year. However, in 1996 the city administration revoked the
permission to use the ground as a burial site. Eventually, their reasoning went,
after forty years had passed, graves could be demolished and the site used
for building purposes. A new location for the Catholic cemetery was
identified and Doulab seemed doomed to fall into oblivion.
Political threats to the existence of the cemetery started in
1992 and have not been eliminated. Find out more about this in our
“The Project” section.
National communities represented in the Catholic Cemetery
Germany, United States, England, Argentina, Armenia, Assyrians,
Chaldeans (Iran), Austria, Belgium, Spain, Estonia, France, Greece,
Netherlands, Hungary, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Yugoslavia, Latvia,
Lebanon, Lithuania, Malaysia, New, Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines,
Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Czechoslovakia, Turkey