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Angola: Alto das Cruzes cemetery

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Alto das Cruzes cemetery | Angola | Africa

[Visited: July 2012]

Walking through the city, heading north-east, took me through busy neighbourhoods and crossing squares until I reached the walls surrounding the destination of the afternoon: the Cemitério de Alto das Cruzes. A cemetery was established here already in the late 17th century, and it is nowadays only a resting place for notable people. I walked along the wall until I reached the main entrance gate which was added in 1895; even though the area has been used for burials for several centuries now, the oldest grave here dates from the mid 19th century, more often than not for persons born in Portugal. Opposite the cemetery, I saw a row of flower stalls, but not one customer buying flowers. Upon entering, I greeted a group of men chatting at the entrance; and, as expected, a guide was appointed, but I was also told to leave my bag behind.

Picture of Alto das Cruzes cemetery (Angola): Detailed look at an old calligraphic tombstone at the Alto das Cruzes

That did not seem like a good idea, if only because my camera was in the bag, so I just walked on, and the men did not bother at all. I found myself virtually alone on a tree-lined alley cutting straight through the cemetery, with narrow lanes running on both sides to the wall I had just walked along. The main lane appeared to have the oldest graves. There were ones with typical Portuguese blue-and-white tiles, others with delicate statues, fine angels, and tombstones with beautiful calligraphic messages to the deceased. Some were clearly legible, others were covered in red sand and gave a true impression of the inevitable passing of time, and disappearing into the past of the dead. As the sun was finally cutting through the layer of clouds above, the cemetery looked attractive and warm.

Picture of Alto das Cruzes cemetery (Angola): Entrance gate to the Cemitério de Alto das Cruzes

In the far edge of the cemetery, kids were playing on the wall, and when they saw me, they jumped down, but somehow did not dare to run to me. I waved at them, and continued to the main alley again, where I found the biggest chapel. Another wall divided this older part from what looks like a newer section of the cemetery; behind it, I found more small chapels with remains of those who died in the wars fought in the 20th century; strangely enough, many of the wall openings inside are empty. Coming back to the main section, however, I found other recent graves flanked by older ones, with a remarkable difference in style: modern black tombstone in fancy shapes next to classical graves with a solemn feel. There are simple graves, and family mausoleums, plastic flowers, there are graves that look well-kept, while others are opened, looking abandoned. Several men were working to maintain the cemetery, but still, the overall impression was of a place that is slowly withering away, together with the memories of those interred here.

Picture of Alto das Cruzes cemetery (Angola): Sunlight falling on a tombstone at the Cemitério de Alto das Cruzes
Picture of Alto das Cruzes cemetery (Angola): One of the oldest tombstones at the Cemitério de Alto das Cruzes
Picture of Alto das Cruzes cemetery (Angola): Detail of a tomb with a skull
Picture of Alto das Cruzes cemetery (Angola): Main lane at the Cemitério de Alto das Cruzes
Picture of Alto das Cruzes cemetery (Angola): Close-up of a tombstone with an angelic figurehead at the Cemitério de Alto das Cruzes
Picture of Alto das Cruzes cemetery (Angola): White tombstones near the ossuary of the heroes of the great war
Picture of Alto das Cruzes cemetery (Angola): Tombstones and tree at the Cemitério de Alto das Cruzes
Picture of Alto das Cruzes cemetery (Angola): Close-up of old tombstone with red sand at the cemetery of Alto das Cruzes
Picture of Alto das Cruzes cemetery (Angola): Sculpted angel catching late afternoon sunlight on a tombstone in the cemetery of Alto das Cruzes
Picture of Alto das Cruzes cemetery (Angola): Angel in prayer on a tombstone in the cemetery of Alto das Cruzes
Picture of Alto das Cruzes cemetery (Angola): Statue on one of the old tombs in the cemetery of Alto das Cruzes
Picture of Alto das Cruzes cemetery (Angola): Ossuary with the remains of the heroes of the great war
Picture of Alto das Cruzes cemetery (Angola): Heart-shaped modern tombstone

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