Wednesday, 25 February 2009
Cementiri de l'Est, Poblenou
I visited Cementiri de l'Est, or Cementiri Vell [Old Cemetery], on the blustery, showery afternoon of 18 October.
Cementiri de l'Est was founded in 1773 by Bishop Josep Climent and became a civil cemetery in 1838 (local parish cemeteries were closed by military order in 1816 for health reasons). By the 1870s no more large tombs could fit into the cemetery and the wealthier classes on expiring moved out to Cementiri del Sud-Oest (opened in 1883) commanding a fine view of the sea from Montjuïc.
Laid out according to the eighteenth century ideal of a park, the newer tombs in blocks of stacked niches line the avenues near the entrance, the older tombs towards the rear are arranged more haphazardly, with variously Roman sarcophagi, Gothic shrines and Byzantine tombs attended by expressive sculpted figures and emblems of the deceased.
I encountered many cats, pigeons perching on ledges and statues, seagulls drifting over from the sea nearby. A flock of starlings (?) occasionally took flight between a bare-branched tree overhanging the north-east wall and a large evergreen tree close to the monument commemorating the victims of the 1821 yellow fever epidemic.
I ought to record here my gratitude to the security guard who kindly indicated the way to the emergency exit upon finding me a little anxious of mien at the wrong side of the entrance some quarter of an hour after closing time, somewhat puzzled at finding me there specifically, but mercifully sympathetic to my plight!