Robaina's plantation

Thursday 23 October 2014

Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón (The Colon Cemetery) Havana

                This is a spot I've visited on several occasions and I still haven't seen it as I should. I've always come here in a bit of a rush and never really gone farther than maybe 20 meters to either side of the main road from the entrance to the Chapel that sits square in the middle of the property. Considering the cemetery is a half square kilometer, I've seen hardly anything.
                 The cemetery grounds are 56 hectares of land in a rectangular shape and in the center is the chapel. The 'Capilla Central' (chapel) opened it's doors in 1886. It's of Romanesque style, 28 meters high and with an octagonal base. When the cemetery was created, this part of Havana, the 'Vedado' district, was farmland or country. The rich would have had their country homes out this way. The area where the cemetery now sits had been set aside for this purpose since the mid 1800's. The church had bought these lands and the first stone was laid in 1871. However, the first burial took place in Nov. 1868. It was already being used as a cemetery 3 years before they started working on it.
                 This is definitely a catholic cemetery with it's many statues and sculptures depicting it's beliefs; angels, saints, Jesus and the Virgin Mary....  fill the landscape making it impossible to think of the influence being anything but Catholicism here. It's been ranked 3rd or 4th best in the world in beauty and importance. It has been dedicated to Christopher Columbus and it has been said that his ashes were in this cemetery at one time.
                  This cemetery is filled with history and as in the city it resides in where noble palaces in the most privileged areas border the poorest ones. Here in the cemetery you will find large monuments dedicated to those who left this earth next to the simplest of tombs. Here you can find Greco-Roman temples, an Egyptian pyramid, medieval castles and Renaissance crypts. Through time, famous; poets, illustrious educators, heroes of the Wars of  Independence, high ranking officers of the Spanish army, nobles and even contains the corpses of the US Marines that died on the Warship the 'Maine' which exploded in the Havana harbour in Feb. 1898.  They have all been brought here to slowly build this space to what it is today. Walking through this cemetery is like walking through the history of Cuba.
                  I must return and spend a couple of hours here to explore beyond the little I've seen. The entrance fee (no tour) is 5cuc and you can take pictures. They offer tours but I didn't check to see the when and how much. It's Cuba, it couldn't be that much.

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