While exploring Madrid, the city where I have been so many times since the 1980s, and which I thought I knew pretty well, on internet maps, my eyes fell on a large terrain in the southwest. I immediately recognized it as a cemetery, with circles, streets and lanes, and decided to visit it on my next trip to Madrid. So, here I was, walking towards the entrance on a bright, sunny Sunday morning in early Spring. Even though I had realized by looking at the map that this was a big cemetery, it was only later that I learnt that this is actually one of the largest cemeteries of Europe, with over 5 million deceased - more than there are inhabitants in the city of the Spanish capital.
After walking though the entrance, I walked up to the chapel, a rather modest building with a remarkably slender cupola and tower, constructed in the mid-1920s in a modernist style. Directly behind the chapel, I saw the first circular walls with tombs, and walked left. I visited some of the sections with graves on the east of the cemetery, walking cobble-stone lanes with trees, and reading some of the tombstones. I returned to the wall with graves, walked up a broader lane, and noticed that there were no other persons around walking the cemetery. All visitors of the cemetery seemed to be using cars to move around the vast cemetery grounds. I walked further uphill, saw some walls that badly needed repair, and reached the top of the hill.
From here, I had a good view over the area; it also allowed me to grasp the enormous size of this cemetery. I could just see the top of the tower at the chapel, I and below me, the grounds continued. I stumbled upon quite a large memorial structure, with a marble tombstone on an empty space in front of it. It appeared to be in memory of Falangistas who died in the Civil War in the mid 1930s. Closer to the chapel, I found a Spanish flag alongside a memorial for the División Azul, the soldiers who fought against the Russians for Hitler. It is remarkable that even after so many years, those who fought for democracy are much less visible on Almudena cemetery. When I passed the chapel on my way out, two old men were climbing one of the movable stairs to put flowers next to one of the graves in the wall. But with more graves than inhabitants, I wondered if all graves got the same attention.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Almudena Cemetery (Spain). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Almudena Cemetery. Read more about this site.