Sometimes, a visit to an old cemetery can provide an insight into the history of the town or city in which it is located. Such is the case with the Agramonte Cemetery, located in Porto, which proved to be an interesting venue to spend a couple of hours. It also houses one of Portugal’s most important collections of sculptures, including works by Soares dos Reis and Teixeira Lopes.
Agramonte was created in a hurry in 1855, as an appropriate burial site was urgently needed for the victims of a sizeable cholera epidemic. Subsequently, in 1869, the cemetery was restructured and incorporated ‘private’ cemeteries that were run by various Brotherhoods within the city. These fenced areas still exist, enclosing the sections operated by the Orders of Carmo, Trindade and Sao Francisco. These three sections take up a sizeable part of the 12 hectare cemetery, as can be seen on the map below.
The Order of Carmo has the largest of the three Brotherhood sections, but it is also the least well-maintained. Whereas most of the cemetery has neatly maintained stone footpaths, the Carmo section has dirt pathways with weeds growing along the edges. Both of the sections run by the Orders of Trindade and Sao Francisco have decorative entrance gates and have neat, tidy footpaths.
Between 1870 and 1874, shortly after the restructuring of the cemetery, the chapel was constructed. It was designed by engineer Gustavo Adolfo Goncalves e Sousa. The chapel was enlarged in 1906 by architect Jose Marques da Silva. Then, in 1925, the Italian painter Silvestro Silvestri produced the Byzantine-inspired paintings within the chapel.
Another sizeable building within the cemetery is the oval-shaped Municipal Burial Monument. This granite and iron construction has three levels (one being below ground). As each of the repositories is small in size, I am assuming that the building is an ossuary, and that each space contains only the bones of the deceased, re-located some time after an in-ground burial.
A memorial monument in the centre of the cemetery highlights a tragic historical event that occurred on 20th March, 1888. On that night, the Baquet Theatre was completely destroyed by a fire that killed 120 people. The monument to the victims includes pieces from the destroyed theatre.
Whilst the cemetery has areas for the more common in-ground graves, much of the facility is taken up by above-ground buildings – crypts or mausoleums – that house coffins of family members. These structures come in a variety of styles and sizes. Some are sombre granite with columns, whilst others mirror a more local style of building, with red slate roofs and even azulejo tiles. Many feature glass doors (some with with lace curtains) and some have their own stained-glass windows on the rear wall. Each one is built in a style preferred by the respective families, whose loved ones are housed within. It is evident that family members visit many of these vaults on a regular basis, as fresh flowers were placed inside many of them.
Whilst most of the crypts bear family names, the casual observer has no insight into the history of those who lay within. However, for some of the more notable individuals, the cemetery has erected plaques that provide a little historical context. These plaques reveal that those interred within the cemetery include actors, musicians, artists, bankers, wine merchants, mayors, race car drivers, etc. I have captioned the next group of images with the names and backgrounds of those who occupy the structures.
Some of the graves and mausoleums include sculptures, a few of which can be seen below.
In contrast to the large family mausoleums, many of the people interred in the cemetery have a simple and small space, in one of the ossuaries that can be found along the perimeter of the property. Many of these small burial spaces have fresh flowers attached to them, presumably placed there by family members and loved ones. Due to the height of these ossuaries, the cemetery provides step ladders so that the individual spaces can be reached.
Whilst it has a long history, it is still an active cemetery with new burials taking place.