Dubbed the "New World's Westminster Abbey," Glendale cemetery is grand, exclusive and filled with A-list stars

By Michael Y. Park
Updated September 05, 2009 01:20 PM
Credit: Graham Whitby Boot/Allstar/Globe

Jimmy Stewart, Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Walt Disney. These and others among Hollywood’s all-time A-listers are now Michael Jackson’s neighbors for eternity.

When he was laid to rest Thursday in the Great Mausoleum in the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, Calif., the King of Pop finally found company worthy of his fame – and a place grand enough for his notoriously extravagant tastes.

The huge mausoleum, once dubbed the “New World’s Westminster Abbey” by Time, is modeled on the historical Campo Santo in Genoa, Italy, famed for its gigantic Gothic cloisters. Nearby spots boast a number of replicas of works by the Renaissance master Michelangelo, two of the largest paintings in the world (“The Crucifixion” and “The Resurrection”), and rare 13th-century stained-glass windows.

At the gates of the cemetery near the Gardens of Contemplation, there’s a labyrinth modeled on one located in Chartres, France. Other pieces of art include a statue of George Washington originally meant for the U.S. Capitol and one sculpted by the artist who created the Lincoln Memorial.

The 300-acre cemetery, which was founded 103 years ago on 55 acres in what was then called the town of Tropico, is famed for its lush, rolling lawns, even becoming a popular spot for weddings. Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman, and Regis and Joy Philbin are among those who’ve married there at the chapel called Wee Kirk o’ the Heather, modeled after the village church in Glencairn, Scotland.

But perhaps the most attractive feature is the cemetery’s reputation for protecting the privacy of the stars resting there. The cemetery, which is private, provides limited access to the public and is familiar with how to handle the attention celebrity gravesites attract. The Great Mausoleum is all but impregnable to gawkers, tourists and even dedicated fans, so those who found it hard to find peace in life – like Jackson – will certainly find it after death.