The cemeteries. The thread of inhabiting death

An aesthetically pleasing city is the result of excellent urban planning, where the entire typology coexists in harmony with each other.

There are services that, due to their own needs, are located on the outskirts, and in some cases are being absorbed by the urban sprawl, such as airports and industrial zones, integrating them into everyday life. There are also cities with planned urban layout since classical antiquity such as Italy and Greece. How is it that new spaces are integrated into the metropolis?

The word “cemetery” derives from the late Latin coementerium, which in turn comes from the medieval Latin cimenterium, to refer to a bedroom of the dead, composed of lying down or taking root and -terion to name a place.
Resting places on the outskirts of the city

Most cities have built airports and industrial zones on the fringes of their urban sprawl, but as demographics have advanced, these spaces are slowly being absorbed by housing and other necessities.

Vienna’s Central Cemetery. (source : 20minutos.es).

A special case is the cemeteries that have also been placed in peripheral areas, but due to their antiquity they were also absorbed by the metropolis. According to some critics, it is believed that the first cemeteries took place in the burial offerings at Middle Paleolithic sites in Skhul and Qafzeh almost 100 thousand years ago. The oldest cemetery in the world is located in Iraq in the Najaf region, which is considered the largest and oldest because it houses 6 million graves in 6 square kilometers.

The cave site of Panga ya Saidi in Kenya where Mtoto was unearthed (Mohammad Javad Shoaee/Nature/PA).
The Beauty of Death

The first cemetery with gardens around it in the middle of a city was decreed by Napoleon, since until the 19th century it was normal to bury people in churchyards, but excessive population growth and constant illnesses led villagers to stacking the bodies in the patio, which caused contamination of rivers, resulting in diseases and epidemics.

The most famous cemetery is perhaps Père Lachaise located in the 20th district of Paris. There are the tombs of Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Édith Piaf and Isadora Duncan among many other famous people. This cemetery was built in 1804 after Napoleon declared himself emperor.

Oscar Wilde’s cemetery. (Source : Amusingplanet.com).

This cemetery became popular after the orders of Empress Josefina moved the remains of Abelardo and Eloisa, tragic lovers of the 12th century. Currently the cemetery houses 69 thousand monuments and is one of the most famous visited by tourists who offer the tombs of the famous. It is also common to find elegant tombstones with imposing sculptures made by the most famous artists in the district.

Père Lachaise Cemetery. (source: viajesglobetrotter.com).
The City of Death

There are other cemeteries such as the one on the Venetian island of San Michele located between Venice and Murano. This cemetery is considered an engineering and architectural project because it consists of an extension of the island as a result of the unhealthy conditions at the beginning of the 19th century. Here it is intended to design buildings that will house nested tombs as sculptural blocks. This proposal intends to be open to integrate the tombs with the urban landscape, that is, it will not be protected by walls on its perimeter.

Eye in the sky view of Saint Michaels Island. (Source : consueloblog.com).

In Barcelona is the Montjuïc cemetery, considered one of the most beautiful in Europe for the sculpture of its tombs. This space has served as a stage in literature, such as in the works of Carlos Ruiz Zafon, who revived the place among his lyrics and now tours of its corners are made so that tourists are delighted by its beauty and mysticism.

Montjuïc Cemetery. (source : viajerosdelmisterio.com).
This thing of ours.. so is thing of ours

Speaking of art, Calvary Cemetery in Manhattan is famous for its Italian mafia scenes. Do you remember the funeral of Vito Corleoney Pacino guarding? In fact, on this site there are tombs with tombstones where Irish and Italian surnames can be seen. We also find graves of soldiers and war veterans, politicians, gamers and writers. The beauty of this space consists in the breadth of its horizons and the uniformity of its tombs. Many tourists even claim to be an ideal place to have a picnic. Would you dare?

Woodland Cemetery, Bronx, New York City. (source : eldiario.es).

But not everything is hunky-dory, in Mexico and other Central American countries, cemeteries would become part of the city after the conquest, initially staying in front of cathedrals or churches to later become independent on the slopes of hills or larger spaces immersed in the urban layout.

Cemetery musician Victor Dzib Cima, 70, plays his accordion Friday as he waits for clients while cemetery workers remove coffins from gravesites that belonged to families who stopped paying rent at the San Nicolas Tolentino Pantheon, where he has worked for tips for 22 years, in the Iztapalapa area of Mexico City. (source : Mercurynews.com).

Depending on the social position it will also be the place of eternal rest that we will inhabit. In the Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico, there is a basement with particular niches and a private space below the main atrium where the tombs of the cardinals and priests are located. This space also receives guided tours and keeps more than one secret about the culture of life after death.

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral. (source : Pinterest).
The Future of The Cult of Eternal Rest

The beauty and mysticism of these spaces are the result of the cult of eternal rest. And  it depends on the religion that is professed; geographical location and economic position. Much has been said about them in the arts, especially in literature. They are the work of designers, sculptors, gardeners, architects and urban planners. At some times in our lives we have gone to one; perhaps not for tourism as we would have liked. However, it is possible that in the future they will disappear; due to overpopulation or other ways of approaching eternal rest. What is your favorite cemetery?

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