There’s few creepier things than walking about places where the dead gather, but such is not the case when you step into the Montjuïc Cemetery. This astounding necropolis could easily be considered a peaceful open-air sculpture garden with an impressive amount of exquisite statuary to admire.
Strolling through the paths of the hallowed space, first opened March 17, 1883 by the city of Barcelona, is mesmerising. Important local families would hire the best architects and sculptors of their day to bestow a little artistic immortality to their dearly departed.
During the nineteenth century, Barcelona went through an economic metamorphosis, growing vastly in population, and therefore had an increasing demand for burial grounds. Today, the cemetery contains over one million burials and urns of cremated ashes within 150,000 plots, niches and mausoleums.
The early monuments inside were inspired by Classical and Gothic styles, while others clearly display an Art Nouveau influence. In Catalonia, Art Nouveau takes the name of Modernisme (as it was first known in the Catalan language), and is one of the main visual traits that helps create the Barcelonean aesthetic.
The talents whose commemorative work can be seen within the cemetery were architects like: Joan Martorell, Antoni Rovira i Rabassa, Leandre Albareda, Josep Vilaseca, Lluís Domènech i Montaner, Miquel Pascual i Tintorer, Juli Maria Fossas, Ubaldo Iranzo, Emilio Sala Cortés, Pere Garcia Fària, Enric Sagnier, Jaume Bayó i Font, Bonaventura Bassegoda i Amigó, Salvador Soteras i Taberner, Josep Puig i Cadafalch, Antoni Maria Gallissà, Josep Maria Jujol, Tiberi Sabater, Camil Oliveras and Josep Domènech i Estapà…
…and they involved visionary sculptors such as Josep Llimona, Enric Clarasó, Rossend Nobas, Josep Campeny, Rafael Atché, Manuel Fuxà, Josep Reynés, Eduard Alentorn, Josep Clarà, Eusebi Arnau and Josep Maria Subirachs.
It truly is a treasure trove here, of memories, mysteries and masterpieces.
So make sure not to just swing by Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia when you mull over which historical monuments to visit while in Catalonia, because Barcelona is full to bursting with such beautiful gems.
Text and photographs by Diana di Nuzzo