The cemetery is located in a wide valley between the Rasos-Ribiškės hills, with many smaller hills surrounding it – most of which are decorated with different kinds of trees. It’s one of the oldest and most important cemeteries in Lithuania. There are two Rasos Cemeteries: Old Rasos, with its neo-gothic chapel and bell tower was erected in 1796 – and the New Rasos.
The Rasų Cemetery also houses the Hill of Literatai. Famous Lithuanian, Polish, and Belarusian writers and cultural figures are buried in the middle of the cemetery. In the northern part of the cemetery is the book smuggler corner (with the remains of the oldest fence from 1812, and the oldest graves of 1822-1823).
Rasos was the first cemetery established outside the city following the closure of the Church of St. Joseph and Nicodemus and its cemetery. Historians of the 19th century speculate that victims of various epidemics were buried in the Rasos suburb. In 1800 the parish Church of Missionary Monastery was founded to replace the St. Joseph and Nicodemus Parish. The area of the new cemetery was sanctified in April 1801.
When the cemetery was set up, columbariums were built – 3-5 storey brick buildings with coffins put in their niches and memorial boards on the outer part. Tomb plaques covering the niches of the columbarium on the façade often featured long text, coats of arms and carvings made by sculptors of the time. The columbariums were demolished in the 20th century: one in 1937 and the other in 1957. Former remains were re-buried nearby at the Rasų Cemetery. The famous painter Pranciškus Smuglevičius was believed to be buried in one of those columbariums.
In 1847, the Orthodox clergy occupied a new area near the Rasų Cemetery where they buried those who died in the Military Hospital. This cemetery was called Orphan Cemetery at the beginning of the 20th century.