The Caroline Walter Tombstone

Caroline Walter’s unusual monument may be found in Bonn, Germany, at the Alter Friedhof cemetery. Caroline Walter died in 1867 at the age of 16 from TB. According to the plaque at the foot of her grave, this memorial was commissioned with affection by her elder sister Selma, and her separation from her loved ones was dictated by God’s counsel.

Over 50,000 flowers have been placed on the grave of a young girl who died in Freiburg, Germany, nearly 150 years ago. However, no one knows who put them there. Every morning, beneath the summer heat and the winter snow, a new flower is placed on Caroline Christine Walter’s grave.

Caroline Walter and her beloved older sister Selma came to Freiburg after their parents died to live with their grandma. She attended a boarding school for young ladies and, by the age of 16, she had a slew of admirers drawn to her youthful attractiveness. Caroline joyously moved in with her sister and her new husband when her sister married. Caroline caught tuberculosis in the early summer of 1867, when she was only 16 years old, and died a few weeks later.

Selma, her sister, wanted to create a lasting monument and commissioned a sculptor to design a grave in her sister’s likeness. Caroline is depicted in the life-size and life-like sculpture as if she had fallen asleep reading in her own bed.
The burial was located against one of the outer walls of the Alter Friedhof cemetery, which had been in operation for over 200 years. It was a tranquil environment, made the more so by the lovely grave of the sleeping girl.

Caroline’s sister began to observe that a fresh flower was usually on her grave when she visited shortly after her death, and the flowers from her funeral were fading. Months and years passed, and no one could figure out who was leaving the flowers. The cemetery groundskeepers were unable to provide any information, but they may have been sworn to secrecy.

Caroline had never mentioned any particular young man to Selma, but rumors abound. The most frequent explanation is that the flowers were left by one of Caroline’s instructors who fell in love with her and regretted her death for the rest of his life. Even if he had lived to reach a hundred, he would have died more than a half-century ago. Is it possible that he left instructions for future generations to continue on the tradition?

Today, just a little sunshine filters through the branches of the trees overhead, and moss has grown over the place where she sleeps, yet a new flower has been placed on Caroline’s grave every morning since that sad day in 1867.

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