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Spain: Almudena Cemetery

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Almudena Cemetery | Spain | Europe

[Visited: March 2012]

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.

Picture of Almudena Cemetery (Spain): Rows of tombs at the gigantic cemetery of Almudena

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.

Picture of Almudena Cemetery (Spain): Chapel of Almudena with shadows of trees

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.

Picture of Almudena Cemetery (Spain): Pictures under the arm of a statue at the Almudena cemetery
Picture of Almudena Cemetery (Spain): Shiny tomb at the Almudena cemetery
Picture of Almudena Cemetery (Spain): Statue of Jesus on grey tombstones at the Almudena cemetery of Madrid
Picture of Almudena Cemetery (Spain): Two men adding flowers to one of the many graves in one of the tomb-walls
Picture of Almudena Cemetery (Spain): The División Azul were Francoist soldiers fighting for Hitler against the Russians
Picture of Almudena Cemetery (Spain): Boy with turtle: statue at one of the many graves of Almudena cemetery
Picture of Almudena Cemetery (Spain): The chapel of Almudena cemetery towering above one of the lanes
Picture of Almudena Cemetery (Spain): Part of the huge cemetery of Almudena: wall with graves and trees in the background
Picture of Almudena Cemetery (Spain): The tower of the chapel as a backdrop to the graves in the foreground
Picture of Almudena Cemetery (Spain): Decorative pillar at the cemetery of Almudena
Picture of Almudena Cemetery (Spain): Large graves at the cemetery of Almudena
Picture of Almudena Cemetery (Spain): Lane of the Almudena Cemetery
Picture of Almudena Cemetery (Spain): Falangista martyrs killed in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s have their tombstone at the cemetery as well

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