cemeteries in Portugal (19th century)
An historical and artistic approach
by Francisco Queiroz
(Professor of History of Architecture and Urban Planning at the ESAP, Porto, Portugal)
spaces and buildings are very important to understand social history. However,
this importance increases if we deal with 19th century cemeteries, so
significant to the present historical, sociological, urban, anthropological and
century cemeteries can be also important art repositories. In Portugal, we can
study from it many features on the evolution of architecture, sculpture and
industrial arts (masonry, cast iron, wrought iron, stuccoes, ceramics).
Cemeteries are one of the
most impressive reflexes of an historic moment in a certain culture. Therefore,
it is rather understandable why southern Europe cemeteries present features that
cannot be easily found in Great Britain cemeteries, for example. However, if we
look closer to Portuguese cemeteries, we can easily distinguish it from the
Spanish, the French or even from the Italian ones.
In this article, we will
give a wide view about the specificity of Portuguese cemeteries, focusing the 19th
century – when they were established in a modern standard and when the
celebration of death was faced by romanticism in such peculiar ways, as it
happened in Great Britain during the Victorian period.
Research about Portuguese
cemeteries in the 19th century is not yet extensive. We should
mention the historical and sociological approaches of Fátima Melo Ferreira
(Ferreira, 1996) and Fernando Catroga (Catroga, 1999). However, the subject only
very recently attracted researchers with multidisciplinary approaches. Gonçalo
de Vasconcelos e Sousa was the first scholar researcher in Portugal to study
some of the Portuguese cemeteries by this method, emphasizing art (Sousa, 1994).
Francisco Queiroz (Queiroz, 1997) and Paula Vieira (Vieira, 1999) presented also
master thesis on the same subject. Some other references could be pointed (Flores
et al., 1993; Queiroz, 1999; Portela & Queiroz, 1999; Queiroz, 2000;
Queiroz, 2000a; Portela & Queiroz, 2000).
The first complete
monographic study about a romanticist cemetery ever published in Portugal is
still very recent. It was the result of research carried out by Ana Margarida
Portela and Francisco Queiroz about the Santo António do Carrascal cemetery, in
Leiria, one of the most original 19th century cemeteries in Portugal
(Portela & Queiroz, 2003). This essay has more than 600 illustrations and
presents the cemetery from all possible approaches – artistic, historical,
administrative, sociological, urban, symbolic, genealogical, and biographical,
including even conservation of monuments and practical strategies of
The wide approach of this
concise article was possible only dewing to our full time scholar research, in
progress since 1994. We want to thank to Ana Margarida Portela for helping us so
much in the exhaustive visits to cemeteries from all Portugal, more than 600 by
now. Thousands of photographs were taken, epitaphs were recorded and information
about families, masons, architects or engineers who draw plans for cemeteries
and tombs was registered from more than 70 local archives. Intensive research on
the Portuguese daily press from 1834 to 1867 was also carried out in the last
years. This research culminated in the PhD thesis "Oporto
cemeteries and 19th century cemetery art in Portugal: increasing
romanticist manifestations towards memory preservation (1835-1865)"
A Portuguese cemetery chronology
We can start a Portuguese
chronology towards modern cemeteries in 1755, right after the devastating Lisbon
earthquake. Ribeiro Sanches, a doctor fully aware of some French medical pioneer
works about the believed dangerousness of miasmas, pointed out already the need
for new burial solutions in Lisbon - the largest city in Portugal, therefore
with higher hygienic problems. However, in Portugal this growing movement for
new burial solutions was very small in the second half of the 18th
century, limited to a few doctors and progressive politicians.
As it happened in London
after the 1666 fire, radically new burial solutions were not implemented in
Lisbon after the earthquake, and new parish churches were built to receive the
corpses. In fact, interments in Portugal were mostly made inside the churches.
We do not have any wide statistic research available about this subject, but we
estimate that in the middle of the 18th century more than 70% of the
interments in Portugal were made inside religious buildings. Churches, convents
and its cloisters, chapels (including private chapels of manor houses) and even
hermitages were, by principle, potential spaces of burial.
In rural areas, we estimate
that the average of interments inside the churches and chapels could reach more
than 90% of the obituary of the 18th century. Only few corpses were
buried outside the religious buildings, particularly in the adros, spaces
common to almost all the parish churches in Portugal.
The word adro
derives from the Latin atrium, which
means an open space right before the entrance of an important building. Thus, an
adro is a yard around a church, but it is not the same as a British churchyard.
Today, adros are used as places of meeting and attendance during
religious services, where annual religious feasts take place. In the back
centuries, an adro was more than this. It was also the only kind of
public square in almost all small Portuguese villages: public reunions were made
there, including community businesses. Some parts of the adros could have
also an interment function, as
an extension of the church interior, particularly
in spots right next to the church walls. However, this interment function cannot
be applicable to all Portuguese adros. Even in those adros that
had an interment function, many of it received corpses only in special
adros were not even used for decades in many villages and all the corpses
were buried inside the churches. In fact, although criticised in the early middle age,
interment inside the churches became like a privilege of all Portuguese
Christians. However, only the richer people could be buried in the church apses,
for example. Common people were usually buried inside the churches, but in less
dignified spots. Very poor people or without any family to pay the burial would
be more frequently buried in the adros, especially if there was lack of
space inside the churches, because the place of interment was proportional to
social position. We can, therefore, understand that one of the main oppositions
to new burial solutions in Portugal were the priests: the common beliefs on an
easier salvation if the grave was closer to a certain image of a saint or a
relic gave the opportunity to the priests of obtaining some monetary benefits.
Only great amounts could give the privilege of burial under an altar with a
particular relic, for example. On the other hand, many Portuguese convents
established since the 15th century were promoted by very rich people
with a main purpose of obtaining a burial privilege in its apse. We find this
Portuguese phenomena very similar to Italy: the famous Pavia certosa was
established in the end of the 14th century by the Visconti family
with the specific purpose of a private pantheon.
In Portugal, also an
epidemic could compel to interments in the adros. Nevertheless, facing an
epidemic, there could be two different attitudes: continuing to bury inside the
churches, only burying in the adro if all the graves in the church went
filled; or making all the interments in the adros, even if there were
still enough space inside the church, considering the danger in burying the
deceased of epidemics inside the churches. The second option became more common
by the end of the 18th century and in the beginning of the 19th
century. Sometimes, distant burial grounds were arranged next (or even inside)
hermitages outside the villages and usually remained abandoned after the
The burial average in the adros
increased in the beginning of the 19th century also because churches
became overcrowded with graves in some villages with larger demographic growth.
In Póvoa de Varzim, it was decided in 1790 to maintain the church door open
everyday, because the smell inside was insupportable (Queiroz, 1997).
Among more illustrated
people, burials became a problem by the end of the 18th century, not
only because of overcrowding graves inside the churches, but also because was
growing the belief on the dangerousness of miasmas. However, even in the first
quarter of the 19th century burial in the adros was still an
exception. For the common people, no real alternative to churches was possible,
mainly because of religious beliefs.
The hospital burial grounds
In Portugal, the misericórdias
(benefaction institutions) became common in larger villages and towns since the
beginning of the 16th century. The misericórdias took care of
poorer people burials, in case of deceasing inside their hospitals. Therefore,
burial spaces for these people often presented indignity: in the open air, mere
spaces with graves and with no religious references.
By the middle of the 18th
century, demographic growth in larger towns, new urban concerns and the
increasing fears of the miasmas provoked the relocation of some of these burial
grounds to the outskirts of city walls. These became the first Portuguese
catholic and permanent burial grounds, isolated from churches and with hygienic
motivations. Still, no modernity can be found in other of its features.
The protestant burial grounds
Before the 19th
century, very rarely we find non-catholic Portuguese and minor religious
communities. They were not allowed to bury their deceased. Sometimes,
Protestants were buried in the seashore, as it happened in Oporto with British
subjects in the beginning of the 18th century. Nevertheless, British
community in Portugal became very strong in Lisbon and Oporto and secular
treaties between the two kingdoms allowed to overpass religious prejudices. In
the beginning of the 18th century, a first British burial ground was
allowed in Lisbon, but only if it had huge walls to hide it and with no
religious building inside. In Oporto and other Portuguese ports, only in the
last quarter of the 18th century were established British burial
grounds, which became also used by all the other protestant nationalities.
British burial grounds,
particularly that of Lisbon, were very important to the establishment of
open-air catholic cemeteries, because they presented a dignified solution to the
post-death. Outside the city walls, hygienically tolerated, surrounded by walls,
these burial grounds offered the same protection against animals as the
churches. Trees gave it a picturesque atmosphere and – the most important
– tombs gave to memory preservation a new meaning. In fact, the first open
air mausoleums in Portugal were placed in the Lisbon British cemetery, around
1740s, although rare headstones there are still from the 1720s. In the catholic adros
no monuments were placed, because only the richer people could afford it and
these were buried in special parts inside the churches. Even small headstones,
that were rather common in the middle age outside the Portuguese church walls,
disappeared from the adros. Catholic death was by then anonymous in
Portugal. Only the richer could have epitaphs in their tombs.
In Portugal, British burial
grounds can be considered cemeteries, having a complete independence from
religious buildings and where every dead could have, at least, a headstone and
First open air catholic cemeteries in Portugal
During the last quarter of
the 18th century, occurred the first experiences on the establishment
of new catholic cemeteries outside the churches. One was established in a new
designed village in the Algarve – Vila Real de Santo António – by
order of the Prime Minister Marquês de Pombal, the most important
illuminist politician in Portugal. This cemetery, however, had a chapel designed
to receive burials of the richer people. It was not really a modern cemetery but
just a new burial space outside habitation areas, where old burial habits were
The Superintendent of the
Queen, Pina Manique, also an illuminist, tried a couple of times the
establishment of new parish cemeteries outside the Lisbon churches, in the last
quarter of the 18th century. It was possible the establishment of
just one – in Campo de Ourique. However, since burial in the churches was
by then not forbidden in Portugal, Campo de Ourique became a cemetery for the
poor and, in some years, it was not even used, being never completed its
By the end of the 18th century, we can find more innovation in some catholic burial grounds by religious initiative. More concerned misericórdias built altars in its burial grounds, to simulate an open-air church. We can mention the head of the Misericórdia de Setúbal cemetery, which was enriched in the 1770s with beautiful polychromes tiles, representing the process of interment and piety symbols (fig. 1).
We can also mention the
catacombs of the religious brotherhood Ordem Terceira de S. Francisco (Oporto),
built in the second half of the 18th century under the new church,
but with no direct connection with it. This crypt innovated because it fitted
into new hygienic standards.
However, the most
interesting example dates from 1798: a real cemetery, built in the back of
Leiria's cathedral, by initiative of the Bishop itself. D. Manuel de Aguiar made
it in a way that almost all the deceased people in this town became buried on
this new space, with high walls and a noble entrance. This illuminist bishop
gave the example being the first to build a vault for himself and his
successors, after the consecration. It is quite remarkable how maintaining
religious standards in the open air space and making all the people equal in the
new cemetery was possible to end with interments inside the churches of Leiria
when no law yet obliged to it.
However, Leiria's cathedral
cemetery was not completely modern, because people were not mentally prepared to
erect monuments there, at least not the ordinary people. The French example,
mostly the Père Lachaise cemetery, would be necessary to make possible
the erection of monuments in Portuguese catholic cemeteries. However, these
monuments could only be erected when all the burials in Portugal became
forbidden inside the religious buildings. This was the hardest goal to achieve.
Napoleonic laws about
interments had some effect in Portugal, but Portuguese edicts published in 1805,
1806 and in some other years further on became almost ignored. Portugal suffered
a lot with the French invasions and D. João VI - the Regent of the crown
- installed himself in Brazil, in 1807, a fact that transformed Portugal in
almost a Brazilian colony. Political situation was then rather instable and
legislation about cemeteries lacked consistence. Some edicts giving burial
privileges to religious brotherhoods were important, because promoted some new
burial grounds outside the churches, in larger towns. However, these were not
modern cemeteries yet.
The liberal victory and the 1835 law
By 1820, a liberal
revolution was proclaimed in Oporto and a new order was temporarily installed.
The Parliament discussed a law project about the need of new cemeteries.
Surprisingly, this was presented by an archbishop that considered the British
burial grounds (mainly the Lisbon one) as models to the new cemeteries that
should be established in Portugal, but always with a catholic chapel.
This project became
abandoned with a counter-revolution period, but a model for new cemeteries was
taking shape in the mind of some politicians: a cemetery with trees, dignified
In the beginning of the
1830's, a decisive civil war was going on between the legitimists and the modern
liberals. Many liberal intellectuals and politicians went to exile in London and
Paris. This fact is very important because when they gathered in the Azores to
prepare the assault that would give the final victory to the liberals, they
brought both the experience of the nonconformist cemeteries in England, the
first projects to new cemeteries in London and the impressive image of a Père
Lachaise already filled with monuments.
In 1833, the civil war
between liberals and legitimists reached the maximum point with the siege of
Oporto, which lasted several months. This extremely hard situation became
coincident with the famous cholera epidemic that also attacked London months
before. In this context, many Oporto churches remained temporarily closed to
burials and some projects to new cemeteries were conceived. The epidemic spread
out and in many Portuguese towns and villages all the interments were then made
in the adros or even in the top of hills, near small chapels. However,
the epidemic finished in 1834 and the burial situation became almost as it was
In Portugal, the liberal
victory of 1834 was coincident with the beginning of romanticism. The no longer
exiled intellectuals occupied places of government and a new order begun, with
revolutionary measures taken, like the abolition of convents and the submission
of the religious order to the civil law.
In September the 21st
of 1835, for the first time in Portugal, a law pointed the alternatives to
inhumation inside the churches: public cemeteries should be established
everywhere, away from houses, surrounded by walls, all consecrated. Local
authorities had to build it under the surveillance of the district governors.
Two metropolitan cemeteries
were then established in Lisbon – Prazeres and Alto de S. João.
These were functioning already as burial grounds since the cholera epidemic of
1833-34, but only with the cemetery law of 1835 they became legal and under the
dependence of the local authorities.
crucial years (1835-1840)
The 1835 law, by the
Minister Rodrigo da Fonseca Magalhães, was not efficient. Establishing
cemeteries was rather expensive. Local authorities became hesitant about this
matter, and financing cemeteries with special taxes was a dangerous solution:
how could people accept it, if new cemeteries were not wanted? Almost all
Portuguese were catholic and religious prejudices, as well as tradition, was by
then very strong: people was not interested in being interred away from their
ancestors' remains, away from the altars and religious protection.
On the other hand, it also
became unclear who had to support the establishment of new cemeteries in rural
areas and, mostly, who would be punished if these cemeteries were not built.
Many new edicts and penalties were reinforced in the end of the 1830s. Numerous
riots happened and endless enquires were made (Catroga, 1999).
Some public cemeteries were
established in 1836 and close years. However, many were established in
non-prepared grounds, just to partially comply with the law, probably expecting
that in a few years the political situation would reverse. Other places of
interment were built incredibly slowly, dewed to lack of funds.
Most of the Portuguese
cemeteries established between 1835 and 1839 were mere burial grounds with no
dignity, surrounded by weak wood fences and often invaded by animals in search
of badly interred corpses. Almost all of these so-called public cemeteries
became abandoned for many years. Others were just destroyed even before
consecration. Obviously, people saw these spaces as horrible and religiously
arid cloacas, conceived only to bury the very poor, those with no social
power to escape from it. Therefore, these so common non-convincing public
cemeteries increased apprehension in the Portuguese population and started a
vicious circle of resistance, which can explain why riots happened even many
years after the 1835 law (Queiroz, 2002).
In some towns, cemetery
projects were abandoned when pressure from central government diminished. In
fact, building cemeteries outside towns was very much expensive: land had to be
bought, roads had to be built or improved and local authorities did not had
money easily available to build walls, entrance and mortuary chapel. There was
no real will to do it either.
In some Portuguese towns,
like Santarém, Vila Real, Bragança, Évora or Aveiro, public cemeteries were
established between 1835 and 1840. However, these cemeteries were mostly placed
inside convent gardens, because these convents became extinct in 1834 and its
proprieties reverted to the State. Consequently, the Government offered some
convents to municipalities, since it was the only way to achieve results in the
establishment of new cemeteries. Extinct convents chosen to receive cemeteries
were specially the ones outside town walls, but – of course – these
cemeteries would all become next to churches (the convent's churches).
We can conclude that the
1835 law was accomplished only partially and more in the south of Portugal than
in the north: in the south, religiosity was not so strong. In many cases,
interments inside the churches were abandoned, but adros remained as
temporary (almost permanent) improvised cemeteries, even without walls, entrance
gate, places for monuments etc. Beyond all, the will of the people was having
the dead next to the churches. The situation changed only when hygienic demands
and, most of all, a social desire by the bourgeoisie towards memory preservation
became more important than religious prejudices.
The romanticist cemetery
The doctor Francisco de
Assis Sousa Vaz, who made his PhD in Paris, became the most important ideologist
of the modern cemeteries in Portugal. The 1835 law was planned to bring
interment under civil control and equally to everyone. However, Sousa Vaz went
further: cemeteries should be conceived to become galleries of remarkable men,
family pantheons, and archives made of masonry and ironwork. Pompous mausoleums
should reflect a particular attitude towards death, so emphasized in the middle
of the 19th century: the preservation of ones memory and the
celebration of death as an allegory of loss and melancholy. So, each new
cemetery should become a place of memory and a "city of the dead"
(Vaz, 1835). To achieve so, Sousa Vaz described Paris cemeteries as models and
remembered Portuguese politicians how important it was a monumental entrance,
good walls, a landscape with trees and ways where tombs could be placed along
The first cemeteries in
Portugal to fully accomplish this pattern were the Lapa cemetery (Oporto) and
the Prazeres cemetery (Lisbon). The first one is historically more interesting,
since it was established by the religious brotherhood Irmandade da Lapa next to
its church, following a special permission of the future King D. Pedro IV, in
1833. This brotherhood was then quite popular among Oporto citizens, being its
members many of the liberals that were exiled in London and Paris.
We can find here some
parallel with the private burial companies in Great Britain or even with the
"cementerios de las sacramentales" in Spain, since private initiative
in burials – although strictly religious – was common in Oporto by
the end of the 1830s. However, other private cemeteries established in Oporto
after the Lapa Cemetery were motivated as an excuse not to bury in the Oporto
public cemetery, which was consecrated in 1839. Although the municipality
intentions were modern – and the name of this public cemetery -
"Prado do Repouso" (meadow of rest) - reflected already a romanticist
spirit, popular resistance was so big that even the poorest people joined the
brotherhoods just to obtain privilege of burial next to a church. With so many
members, these brotherhoods became then so powerful that they could make
substantial opposition to the law during decades, alleging ancient privileges.
Still today, Oporto is the only place in Portugal where several private
cemeteries are simultaneously in use.
After the 1835 law, it
became no longer easy to maintain burials inside the churches in larger towns,
because vigilance was bigger there and new burial practices were seen as urgent
by medical advisors. However, the adros often became the solution for all
the burials. In Oporto, private cemeteries of the brotherhoods were all placed
near their churches and, with the exception of the Lapa cemetery, functioned as
mere "adros" for decades.
Even the public cemetery
"Prado do Repouso" was established in a bishop's farm, where there was
an unfinished church, by then adapted to mortuary chapel. Curiously, for some
years this public cemetery stood partially as a farm, as a result of the
preference given by Oporto citizens to private cemeteries. Only by the end of
the 1850s erecting tombs became regular in Prado do Repouso. Until then, Oporto
municipality raised more money with the Prado do Repouso pastures than with
However, the Lapa cemetery
was quite different from all the other Oporto cemeteries, including private
cemeteries. Although placed near to the Lapa church, it was built as a modern campo
santo, a rectangle with a noble entrance and eight sections geometrically
designed with a small chapel at the head. Nevertheless, this cemetery, the
oldest modern cemetery in Portugal (Queiroz, 1997), only in 1838 was
consecrated: noble architecture demanded large funds and time to built it. On
the other hand, the Lapa brotherhood was by then building a private school and
its church was still in construction.
One year after the
consecration, appeared in the Lapa cemetery the first monuments. Its promoter,
João da Silva Ribeiro, cleverly encouraged Oporto citizens to subscribe
two monuments dedicated to great liberal figures: José Ferreira Borges (the
author of the first Portuguese commercial code of laws) and the Bishop D. Manuel
de Santa Inês (religious hero of the Oporto siege). These two monuments
were built in the Lapa cemetery between 1839 and 1841.
In the following decades,
this private and elitist cemetery stood as the most important in northern
Portugal. Many important figures from the 19th century have in the
Lapa cemetery their family vaults, which were widely imitated in other
cemeteries for many years. Some of these tombs are quite magnificent.
As it concerns to the
Prazeres cemetery (Lisbon), in spite of functioning since the cholera epidemic
of 1833-34, only in 1839 erecting private tombs became officially allowed. In
this cemetery, a few hundreds of monuments were built between 1839 and 1850. The
Prazeres cemetery became the model to all the cemeteries in the middle and in
the south of Portugal and the most cosmopolitan cemetery still existing in this
A slow process
By 1844, in some larger
towns there was already a public cemetery. However, most of it was only
partially built or made use of extinct convents and abandoned castles, with no
additional architectonic works whatsoever. Very few Portuguese cemeteries had
already mausoleums. In most of the Portuguese territory, burials were still made
in the adros and, especially in the rural provinces of the north, even
inside the churches.
Since public cemeteries
were still the exception, a new law by the Minister Costa Cabral forced the
establishment of - at least - one public cemetery by municipality, predicting
severe penalties for those who persisted in bury inside the churches. By the
time this law was published, in 1844, there was political instability that
culminated with a revolutionary movement.
This movement had its beginnings on a riot commanded by a mythic woman called
Maria da Fonte, which, together with other women, forced a priest to re-inter
the body in the church, after being buried in a new cemetery (Queiroz, 1997).
In 1853, a cholera alarm
from Europe spread the panic because many people have died of it in 1833-34 and
there was some kind of trauma. Local authorities re-evaluated cemetery projects
that were in stand by since the end of the 1830s. Between 1855 and 1856 the
cholera threaten was consummated in an epidemic. Many existing cemeteries were
enlarged and many new cemeteries were established, specially in places more
vulnerable to cholera: ports and towns near important streets, like Matosinhos,
Gaia (where the cemetery was abandoned a year later), Arcos de Valdevez, Caminha,
Valença, Viana do Castelo, S. Mamede de Infesta or Coimbra. In Oporto, it was
also established in 1855 the second public municipal cemetery (Agramonte) and
private cemeteries without conditions were closed. However, they reopened in a
few months, after the epidemic (Queiroz, 2002).
In the 1860s and in the
beginning of the 1870s, the establishment of cemeteries continued slowly. In
some rural areas from the north of Portugal about 90% of the burials were still
made inside the churches. In the south, most of the burials were made in public
cemeteries but lots of these cemeteries still had not any modern conditions. In
many cases, southern Portugal cemeteries had to be removed to other places by
the end of the 19th century, like in Castelo de Vide or Nisa.
By 1875, all the major
towns in Portugal had already a public cemetery. The last big town to have its
public cemetery was Braga. This was consecrated in 1870, although the process
started, like many others, in 1835. It should be reminded that Braga was a
conservative town and the most important religious center in Portugal.
Leiria got a public
cemetery only in 1871, but this is a special case because the abovementioned
cathedral's cemetery established in Leiria by 1798, despite its decency, was too
near a religious building and it was not under the municipality dependence,
since it was established many years before the 1835 law. So, it was decided to
establish a new cemetery rather than enlarge the ancient one.
In the 1880s and the 1890s
establishment of new cemeteries continued, mainly in the north and in rural
areas. This process remained difficult. Sometimes, the new rich people returned
from Brazil – the brasileiros – gave it a large impulse,
being the first to display their fortunes in pompous mausoleums. Sometimes they
even supported the establishment of local cemeteries and then offered it to the
villages, just to have a spot to immortalize their welfare.
By this time, another
important factor that persuaded local authorities to move on with the
establishment of cemeteries in rural areas was the cholera trauma, every time
there were rumours of a new epidemic. Nevertheless, in the north of Portugal
most of the rural cemeteries became placed in parts of ancient adros,
even in villages right next to Oporto. Demographic structure was not
concentrated here and cemeteries next to churches would become not necessarily
inside the villages (Queiroz, 1997).
In conclusion, this
historic process was really very slow, geographically differentiated and,
sometimes, transitory burial situations were so extended in time that it is
quite difficult to classify or establish clearly the year of establishment of a
certain public cemetery. In the beginning of the XX century, some cemeteries
were still being established for the first time in remote rural areas of
Portuguese cemeteries was never fully accomplished. Non-Catholic sections,
clearly isolated from the catholic graves, became an obligation in every new
cemetery by the end of the 19th century, but these sections were not
built in most of the cases, because only in larger towns existed important
non-catholic communities (Queiroz, 2002).
In 1913 there was an
attempt to transform public cemeteries into civil cemeteries (open to all
creeds). But even then, the government had to redraw on its intentions, to avoid
A short artistic approach to Portuguese romanticist cemeteries
Between Lapa cemetery and
Prazeres cemetery – the two main models of romanticist cemetery in
Portugal – many different artistic features can be found. The first one
was private and rather small. The second was metropolitan and served part of a
city where most of the rich people in Portugal lived. Since there was another
metropolitan cemetery in Lisbon (Alto de S. João), the Prazeres cemetery
became faced as the richer one, even without having a decent entrance for many
years. Besides, common graves were in use there, but they were never used in
Lapa cemetery, where burials were only for members of the brotherhood, having a
In the Prazeres cemetery monuments were all built in marble, not only because it was the most abundant stone in the region, but also because it was the most noble stone. The first monuments in the Prazeres cemetery were not so big, and were clearly inspired in the monuments of the Lisbon British cemetery (fig. 2). For that reason, these monuments were mostly dedicated to one person, marking an individual grave and rarely having a protection rail (Queiroz, 2002).
In the Lapa cemetery, some
of the first monuments were built in marble and also dedicated to one person,
but family tombs, particularly chapels, became the most impressive and
prestigious solutions, using the local granite.
Lapa cemetery was conceived
as a campo santo, with vaults in the shape of magnificent chapels on the
borders (like in most of the Italian cemeteries) and smaller headstones or
obelisks in the central sections. These chapels are unique, allowing visual
contact with its interior through wrought iron gates.
On the contrary, Prazeres
cemetery was conceived more closely to the Père Lachaise model, with more
trees and all kinds of monuments indistinctly along the paths, although these
paths were rigidly traced. Family chapels were smaller and completely closed:
epitaphs were engraved in the outside (Queiroz, 2002).
In resume, we have in
Portugal two major different conceptions in terms of landscape and cemetery art.
Lisbon cemeteries influenced all middle and south of Portugal and were first
influenced by the Lisbon British cemetery and, later on, by the Père
Lachaise, although maintained many original features (fig. 3).
(especially Lapa cemetery) became models of architecture and cemetery design to
the north of Portugal. Foreign influences were here not so strong and
originality in tomb design is higher.
Some other interesting
cemeteries in Portugal, like Santo António do Carrascal in Leiria (fig. 4) or
Conchada in Coimbra (fig. 5) became even more original. Its influence is limited
to small regions, with special kinds of stone. Masons' tastes and specific
sociological features of these towns were the most important circumstances that
promoted this originality in cemetery art.
In Portugal, the most
important cemeteries should be considered as museums, since they are very
important places of history and art (fig. 7). Nevertheless, there has been some
destruction in the last decades, because common people are not aware of its
importance. Recently, the most important Portuguese cemeteries became object of
study for further classification as national monument.
Portuguese cemeteries have
not such quality in sculpture as the major Italians, and have not such
picturesque variety as the major French. In addition, Portuguese cemeteries have
not such beautifully melancholic landscapes as the major British. However, we
can find in Portuguese cemeteries all kinds of European tomb design, as well as
regional designs, so exquisite and monumental most of the times. The major
Portuguese cemeteries have international significance, especially in terms of
architecture, despite not yet being massively explored for tourism. Occasional
visitors become often quite surprised with its artistic and anthropological
features, which still remains almost unexplored by scholars around the world.
CATROGA, F. (1999). O
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luta contra os cemitérios públicos no século XIX. Ler História,
Flores, F. M. et al. (1993). Cemitérios de Lisboa. Lisboa: Câmara Municipal.
A. M., Queiroz, F. (1999). O
Cemitério da Conchada. Munda, 37, 65-76.
A. M., Queiroz, F. (2000). O
ferro como forma de arte cemiterial no século XIX. Munda, 39, 5-24.
A. M., Queiroz, F. (2003). O
Cemitério de Santo António do Carrascal. Arte, História e Sociedade de Leiria
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Portugal: consolidação da vivência romântica na perpetuação
da memória. Tese de Doutoramento em História da Arte apresentada à
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© Francisco Queiroz, 2003
This paper is available only on the web. Please quote it with this link: www.queirozportela.com/cemetpo.htm
Post-Doctoral research on portuguese cemetery art
Is it possible to individualize special features on tombs erected in the 19th century just because its construction was ordered by women? Through an analysis of several Portuguese examples, this paper (in Portuguese) makes a preliminary approach to this problem.Os cemitérios históricos e o seu potencial turístico em Portugal (Portuguese historical cemeteries and its touristic potential - paper in Portuguese by Francisco Queiroz)
Tese de Doutoramento de Marcelina Almeida sobre os cemitérios de Belo Horizonte e de Agramonte (Porto), apresentada à Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (PhD thesis about cemeteries both in Brazil and in Portugal)