The early days of Powązki Cemetery date over two hundred years back. It was established in 1790 on a plot of land donated by the Szymanowski family. The ceremonial consecration of the cemetery took place two years later. They built a small church and catacombs on the grounds which were located quite far from the city at that time. Among the years, the area of today's necropolis was enlarged multiple times by joining the adjacent parcels. Now, the cemetery covers the area of 43 ha. At first, the plan of the cemetery was chaotic, later, they designed plots and alleys.
Powązki Cemetery was badly demolished during the II World War. About 20% of the tombstones, including the oldest ones, were destroyed. Also the church was devastated, and the cemetery's archives were burnt down, destroying the books which had been kept for over a century. There were improvised shelters and weapon arsenals in many graves during the War. Also, a number of military operations took place on the cemetery grounds. The people set free from the "Pawiak" prison in 1944 (operation "Pawiak") found their escape route through the cemetery.
Postbellum, when Warsaw was burnt to the ground, the cemetery started to fall into ruin. Its reconstruction started not sooner as several years later. In the meantime, plenty of historic graves were robbed. The thieves would dig them up, looking for valuables, and also stealing metal elements and stone slabs. The air pollution also caused some damage. In 1952 the cemetery was included into the Register of Historic Monuments, but not until 1974 was the Old Powązki Public Care Committee [“Społeczny Komitet Opieki nad Starymi Powązkami”] undertook formed, whose actions brought the old beauty back to many tombstones.
Almost milion people is buried in Powązki, including many remarkable Polish personalities such as: actors, painters, scientists, professors, writers, and soldiers. There is even the "Avenue of Notables", which hosts, among many else, Władysław Reymont, Jan Parandowski, or Leopold Staff.
Today, Powązki Cemetery is mainly considered to be a monument, a historic memoir, and one of Warsaw's tourist attraction. It is visited by both, tourists, and the city dwellers, who cherish walking down the alleys.