All Saint´s Day Brings Madrid´s City Of The Dead To Life

Today 1st November and Spain marks All Saints Day with remembrances of loved ones of those who have passed.

In Madrid, families congregate in the capital´s vast necropolis of the Almudena Cemetery, which today will see tens of thousands visit to pay their respects and spend time by the graves of their family members.

The cemetery, which is believed to be the largest one in Spain, if not Europe, is the final resting place to over 5 million souls – more than the number of living in Madrid , whose last census put the population at 3.3 million.

Our Lady of Almudena Cemetery (Cementerio de Nuestra Señora de La Almudena) is truly a city of the dead as families navigate the burial ground through streets with their own names and different sections that seem like different neighbourhoods – each with its own distinctive characteristics.

There’s a separate walled area for the tombs and mausoleums of the powerful and notable of the past while the poor are buried on top of each other in stacked crypts that seem inverse structures of the enormous apartment blocks that housed them in life.

The cemetery is named after the Virgin of Almudena and Madrid´s patron whose feast day is celebrated on 9th November.

It dates to the end of the 19th century as Madrid´s population expanded rapidly from its traditional historic centre, growing from around 100,000 in 1850 to over 500,000 by the time the cemetery opened in 1884.

Although not as grand as the cemeteries in Paris, on which it was styled, the Almudena encompasses 120 hectares of pantheons monuments and chapels – many in the classical Mudejar style.

Some of the notable burials include, Real Madrid legend, Alfredo Di Stéfano (1926–2014); the last president of the Second Spanish Republic, Niceto Alcalá-Zamora (1877–1949), the Spanish writer, Benito Pérez Galdós (1843–1920) and Nobel winning scientist, Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852–1934).

There is also a section to fallen of the German Condor Legion who fought in the Spanish Civil War and the Spanish Blue Division who fought with Hitler against Soviet Russia.

Today it is divided into three burial areas for Catholic, Civil and Jewish burials as well as a Garden of Remembrance for cremations.

The cemetery is located in the Ciudad Lineal district is open daily from 0800 until 1830.


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