Saturday, 30 January 2010

Cementerio de nuestra senora de la Almudena

The cemetery is on the edge of the city and the urban landscape is all around its expanding walls

This visit has been on my to-do list for some months now. I love visiting old cemeteries as I am interested in both history and culture and cemeteries tell us much about a city and its people. This one is described as being 160 times the size of the Real Madrid football pitch and I can believe it. It was opened in 1884 and it has already extended beyond its original plan. It is a 20 minute walk from where I live and the grand entrance with an angel-topped chapel is impressive. There are many famous people buried here, especially political figures. Alongside the main cemetery is the civil cemetery where foreigners are buried along with socialists, communists and freemasons. The small walled Jewish cemetery is here too.

Fortunately I had a magazine article with me - published in English - which helped us to identify landmark graves and to read something of their history.

The highlight for me was the site of the massacre of 13 young women in 1939 who were executed (along with 43 men) as reprisal for the assassination of a police chief and his daughter. The old red brick walls remain in silent tribute to their memory and bear plaques to their memory.

We wandered the paths for around six hours in the January sunshine. There was so much to see and explore. The cemetery is in an unusual design, reminiscent of a Greek cross, and there are many walls with plaques and niches as well as individual graves and ornate mausolea. There are gaudy fake flowers everywhere - many tucked into the crevasses of the religious statuary. There are also trees and I even spotted some ivy in the darker corners.

The Civil Cemetery is across the road from the main cemetery and it was here that we found graves of leading socialists, communists, artists, writers, politicians and foreigners who were not allowed to be buried in the hallowed grounds across the street. Pablo Iglesia for example, who founded the PSOE and is remembered with a grand monument that belies the modest man it honours.

From the higher levels at the centre of the cemetery I could see the snowcapped mountains that surround Madrid and the sentinel four towers to the north of the city. I could also see across to the telecommunications tower that is close to my street and beyond to the motorway with its speeding cars.

View to the snowcapped mountains and the famous four towers in northern Madrid

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