The cemetery is located near Talkša lake and covers the area of 4,46 hectares. The cemetery consists of three parts: Catholic, Orthodox and Free Thinkers’ cemetery.
Considering its age, the old cemetery is not the oldest parish cemetery. The oldest cemetery was located around the Cathedral and on its slopes.
The new cemetery further away from the church was set up due to lack of space in the existing cemetery and sanitary circumstances. The new cemetery was built further away from the city on the small hill known as St.John’s Hill.
It is believed that mass burying in the cemetery started in 1831, when cholera raved in the city. One of the oldest tombstones in the cemetery is located on the elevation of the old part of the cemetery, not far from the former chapel. The table says that the year of death is 1801.
There used to be a cross-shaped wooden chapel on the hill. It burned around 1970.
One of the oldest groups of graves is family vaults. Quite many of them remained on the slopes of the hill in the old cemetery, around the former chapel. Because there are almost no surviving inscriptions on facades of vaults, we can only guess that first vaults could have been equipped at the junction of 18 and 19 centuries, while the majority of them was equipped in the second half of the 19 century.
Judging from tombstones and inscriptions on them, the oldest part of the cemetery, St. John’s Hill, was mostly used before World War I.
In 1905, the cemetery was already overfilled. In the same year, Šiauliai dean Gustavas Tomkevičius Gustav wrote to the diocesan consistory of Samogitia asking for the permission to extend the cemetery. Formalities lasted until 1908. The cemetery was extended in the direction of the lake.
Solitary civilians who died or were killed during World War II were buried in family tombs or in unattended graves.
In summer of 1944, when the Soviet aviation was bombarding the city, many bombs fell on the cemetery too, particularly on its oldest part. Many of the former mausoleums and the graves located on the slopes were destroyed or devastated.
In 1945, the executive committee of Šiauliai city, arguing that the cemetery was very abandoned, overfilled and that people were buried in disorder, decided to close them. Burials were permitted only in family vaults and enclosed family graves, if no people had been buried in them for 15 years.
About 1955, at residents’ request the area of the cemetery was extended along the old part of the cemetery, on both sides of the main gate of the cemetery.
Officially no people have been buried in the old cemetery of Šiauliai since 1959.
Many prominent figures are buried in the old cemetery: teachers, priests, engineers, lawyers, artists, doctors, soldiers. The old cemetery sheltered Juozas Miliauskas-Miglovaras, the poet, who wrote in the newspaper “Aušra”.
Philosopher, professor, teacher, last rector Vytautas Magnus University of Independent Lithuania Stasys Šalkauskis, the lawyer and public figure, social democrat Kazimieras Venclauskis, count Zubovai children’s childminder and teacher Adomas Tuchto, the priest and the apostle of temperance Ignacas Štachas rest here.
Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – nuns – are buried in the south-eastern part of the cemetery. Three sisters died in July, 1944, when the bomb hit the hiding place located near the present-day music school, where people used to hide during bombarding.
The first recorded burial in the Orthodox part of the cemetery is burial of Tsarist soldiers who were killed during the suppression of the uprising in 1863 (19 soldiers and 3 officers).
In the early 20 century solitary people were started to be buried in the plot between Catholics and Orthodox. This place was located behind the fence of the Catholic cemetery and here suicides, unbaptized or unbelieving people were buried.