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. Encyclopaedia Iranica), 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 and international.

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.

Further Developments

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

In brief

The Doulab Catholic Cemetery is more than 150 years old. Its coming into being is closely linked with the interest the Qajar rulers took in European science and culture at that time.

In 1942 an important chapter was added to the cemetery’s history, when several ten thousands of Poles were released from Soviet captivity and arrived in Iran.

Find out more about these stories in the current section.

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