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European Cemeteries Route

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  • Angel. Montjuïc Cemetery © Agència Catalana de Turisme

    Angel. Montjuïc Cemetery © Agència Catalana de Turisme

  • Santander Cemetery

    Santander Cemetery

  • Poble Nou Cemetery © Agència Catalana de Turisme

    Poble Nou Cemetery © Agència Catalana de Turisme

  • Avilés Cemetery

    Avilés Cemetery

  

A tour of Spain's significant cemeteries

Did you know there's a European Cemeteries Route? Spain's significant cemeteries are part of this route, and are a manifestation of a distinctive artistic and historic heritage. A stroll around them will not only reveal the tombs of numerous famous people, but also pantheons, sculptures and funerary monuments with surprisingly delicate craftsmanship.

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Most of Spain's significant graveyards are to be found in the regions of Asturias, Cantabria, the Basque Country, Catalonia, Region of Valencia and Andalusia. Here's a taste of what you'll find in each region:

Asturias: this is home to the La Carriona municipal cemetery in Avilés, which dates from the late 19th century and features an array of statuary on allegorical themes of notable artistic value.

Cantabria: Santander is the site of the Ciriego cemetery, whose construction involved many of the top architects and marble workers in the region. It offers a fine example of late 19th-century trends in funerary art.

Basque Country: there are two significant graveyards. On the one hand, the cemetery of Bilbao, which contains one of the most important collections of funerary art in Spain and is a reflection of the golden age of art in the Basque Country between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. San Sebastián is home to the Polloe cemetery. Here you'll find grand pantheons, as well as the final resting place of one of the foremost defenders of women's rights in Spain, Clara Campoamor.

Catalonia: this is the region with the largest number of significant cemeteries –a total of nine– of which eight are to be found in the province of Barcelona. One of these is the municipal cemetery of Vilanova i la Geltrú, containing numerous tombs in the Modernist style. Both here and in the cemetery of Sant Sebastià in Sitges, there is an abundance of grand pantheons built by the 'indianos' (emigrants who set sail for the Americas to seek their fortune) featuring the works of well-known funerary sculptors. Another Modernist graveyard in the province is the cemetery of Arenys de Mar.

Other interesting examples include the new Igualada cemetery and the Los Capuchinos cemetery in Mataró. The first differs from the traditional concept of a cemetery, as it has been transformed into a park in which the graves themselves blend harmoniously into the whole. Its originality merited the award of the FAD architecture prize in 1992. The cemetery of Mataró is located in a Capuchin monastery whose earliest burials date from 1817, and which is home to several imposing pantheons. Also of Capuchin origin is the cemetery of Vilafranca del Penedés, built in 1839 in the grounds of the monastery of this order and containing various notable constructions.

In Barcelona there are two significant graveyards which are well worth a visit: the Poble Nou cemetery, opened in 1775 and which is the city's main cemetery, and the graveyard at Montjuïc. Together they represent a practically unknown part of the city's artistic heritage.

Finally in Catalonia you'll also find the cemetery of Lloret de Mar, in the province of Girona. This is a fine example of the sensitive work of sculptors and architects in the Modernist school of funerary art.

Region of Valencia: this is the location of the old Elche cemetery , built in the early 19th century. Its pantheons and structures reveal the coexistence of numerous different styles such as Neoclassicism, neo-Mudéjar, neo-Romanesque and neo-Gothic. In addition, due to its subsequent expansion, there are also examples of Modernist and art-deco sculptures.

Andalusia: two of the significant cemeteries in this region are in the province of Cordoba. One of these is the Monturque cemetery, important for being the site of various below-ground Roman cisterns. This major work of engineering, today open to visitors, remained concealed for over one thousand years. The other graveyard is in the city of Cordoba itself and is the cemetery of Nuestra Señora de la Salud. Its most outstanding features include its neoclassical façade and various eclectic pantheons. It is also the final resting place of several famous bullfighters such as Manuel Rodríguez Sánchez, known as 'Manolete'.

And to conclude, another graveyard well worth visiting is the municipal cemetery of Granada. It is part of the Alhambra monument and stands very near the entrance to the Nasrid palaces. It contains the archaeological remains of the Arab palace of Alixares (13th and 14th centuries), a small fort and a system of channels built in the early 19th century.

Things to remember:
You can obtain more information on significant cemeteries on the website of the Association of Significant Cemeteries of Europe or through the tourist offices in each place.
The European Cemeteries Route has been recognised by the World Tourist Association for innovation in the dissemination and interpretation of European heritage.

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