Historic Cemeteries: Eerie Places or Open-Air Museums?
Have you ever thought of visiting historic cemeteries? Eerie places
But these spaces, the older ones
For the most various reasons, thousands of people all over the world visit cemeteries as unmissable touristic places. The Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris, the Merry Cemetery in Sapanta, Romania or the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the
In Lisbon stand out two fascinating cemeteries from the 19th century, the Prazeres Cemetery in Campo de Ourique and the Alto de São João Cemetery in East Lisbon. They are part of the historic, artistic and cultural patrimony and are, for that reason, tourist attractions.
You can visit them on your own or join the interesting and free guided thematic
Let’s find out!
Historic, Artistic and Cultural Patrimony of Touristic Interest
The cemeteries fulfil more than their primary role of deposition of corpses, they constitute places of memory. The historic cemeteries from the 19th century
The most famous example of this type of peculiar open-air museum is the famous Pére-Lachaise, one of the attractions of Paris that
This artistic and of collective memory patrimony can and should be promoted as touristic interest. This wouldn’t be with the intent of disrespecting the memory of those who rest there, in fact, quite the contrary. By studying and spreading the word of this patrimony, by promoting the fruition and conservation of the place, we value and extol the artistic assets and the personalities that are eternalised there.
Thematic Guided Visits to the Historic Cemeteries
Turning the historic cemeteries into real open-air museums requires investments. The elaboration of exhaustive surveys of inventories, the creation of itineraries that guide visitors and museological centres, among other actions, imply a large multidisciplinary team.
Sensitising the community to the importance of this patrimony as a testimony of collective memory is fundamental to the success of this tremendous work.
In that sense, the free thematic guided visits carried out by the following entities are important:
- Divisão de Gestão Cemiterial of the City Council of Lisbon – The visits are carried out by their technicians and are subject to previous reservation via e-mail or telephone. Stay tuned to the facebook of Grupo de Cemitérios de Lisboa.
- Santa Casa da Misericórdia is owner and responsible for the conservation of a good part of the patrimony of the historic cemeteries. Through the São Roque Museum it regularly promotes visits. Follow its webpage.
- Um Outro Olhar – a project that includes in their diversified and interesting visits in the West Zone of Lisbon, visits to the Prazeres Cemetery. There is no need for reservation, all you need to do is check the calendar and show up.
The guided visits are in Portuguese. However, the Divisão de Gestão
Do you feel like participating in one of the visits?
Then continue reading our post to know more about the genesis of this functional and artistic urban equipment.
The Relationship with Death
Taking care of the body and of the preservation of the memory of the dead is an ancestral preoccupation of humanity.
Until the end of the 18th century, the relationship with death was very present in
We can imagine how unpleasant and harmful to the population’s health this coexistence was. ☹
In the end of century were reunited conditions to proceed with deep structural reforms.
The increase in population and the consequent urban growth, as well as the notions of hygiene and
Historic Concept of the Implementation of Cemeteries
The French revolution allowed the implementation of a laic government, independent of the church, a model that quickly spread a bit all over Europe.
In Portugal in 1835, in the sequence of the implementation of structural reforms of the government, among which stands out the extinction of the religious orders, burial in churches was prohibited, causing yet another revolution in the conservative habits of the populations.
The civilizational advances of these liberal models, with roots from the enlightenment, imposed by law were, at first, rejected by the more conservative layers of society. This was the big motto for the famous popular fights of the north of the country in 1846, known as the revolt of Maria da Fonte that had other reasons connected to the division between liberals and conservationists.
However, the epidemics of cholera that hit the country between 1833 and 1855 played a decisive role for the progressive acceptance of the new law, since drastic measures became urgent given the high mortality rate.
On the other hand, the guarantee of dignified burials accompanied by a member of the church for anyone regardless of their social
Historic Cemeteries: Places of Memory, Cult and Reflection
What society can be known without having studied its attitude towards death and its funerary rituals?
If the institution of the cemeteries constituted an undeniable civilisation advance, currently the increasing option for cremation constitutes a new advance. The physical impossibility of keeping traditional cemeteries, that demand a permanent growth, makes the responsible entities promote this practice. The populations themselves are more receptive to this option.
The growing adhesion to this ritual deserves a sociological analysis, a reflection that allows us to know better the society that we were, that we are…
The cemeteries are places where the mortal remains of those who’ve left us rest, but were and are designed, built and frequented by the alive. Through the elaborate constructions and real works of art, here is exhibited vanity, thoughts are differentiated, attitudes are assumed, actions are glorified, personalities and their works are honoured.
They are places of memory and not abandonment nor oblivion, places where messages and names are perpetuated. It’s impossible to cross a cemetery without inadvertently reading the names that are a bit all over the place, engraved in stone.
This simple idea was consciously understood in
A Curious FactThe separation between the world of the alive and the resting place of the dead ended up having a curious effect. The romantic literature of the 19th century with its taste for drama, for the exaltation of desperation, pain, grief and death, contributed to a growing vision of death, not as the culmination of a natural process, but as a fatalistic inevitability.
The idea that today many have of the cemeteries as places to avoid because they consider them as tenebrous and morbid, results from the wide diffusion of this literature. To this dramatic view contributes as well the cinematographic production of suspense and terror of the 20th century that triggers fear and takes advantage of cemeteries as a scenery to all types of terrible things.
We invite you to challenge any dark view and embark on an adventure through the historic cemeteries of Lisbon!
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