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Night Time Walks around the Cemeteries of Barcelona: Where to Find the Wish Fulfiller?

Photo taken by Kristina Nastopkaitė.  

Even though it’s not that cold in Barcelona yet, the city streets are already filled with the autumnal smells of roasted chestnuts and grilled sweet potatoes. Visiting Barcelona during autumn and winter, you simply have to stop by the kiosks exuding the magic of Mary Poppins and buy a portion of roasted chestnuts wrapped in a newspaper cone. Take a bite and you’ll know the taste of autumn Barcelona. Add to that some warmed-up sweet potatoes and you’ll have yourself a filling autumn dinner.

The smells of roasted chestnuts and baked sweet potatoes in the streets of Barcelona remind us of the coming All Souls’ Day. The Poble Nou and Monjuïc cemeteries will give you an excellent opportunity to get acquainted with the city’s striking cultural heritage. Barcelona’s cemeteries are characterised by lots of activities, and organises many free tours around the city’s most famous places of eternal rest.

Photo taken by Kristina Nastopkaitė.  

“You, northerners, should definitely visit at least one cemetery of a Mediterranean city. Here, we bury the dead not in the ground, but in concrete sepulchres. After visiting, you’ll learn that such cemeteries are veritable cities of the dead,” said Barcelona’s Cemetery Director Jordi Vilamaña, inviting us to visit the cemeteries for tourist purposes.

The most impressive walks around cemeteries take place… During the All Souls’ Day! The Poble Nou (the New Town in Catalan) cemetery organises staged night tours – drenched in candle light and accompanied by live music, actors dressed in 19th century costumes impersonate the famous figures of Catalan culture. By telling stories, they temporarily bring back to life the city’s 19-20th century public figures.

Photo taken by Kristina Nastopkaitė.  

The Poble Nou Cemetery was built in 1819 by an Italian architect Antonio Ginesi in the same spot where the city’s very first cemetery used to be, later demolished by Napoleon. Interestingly, the cemetery’s lay out resembles the city plan of Barcelona today, which was created much later, in 1859, by the architect Ildefons Cerdà.

“A cemetery is a city” – that’s the slogan of the “Barcelona’s cemeteries” company. This slogan implies a certain belief: a lot can be learned about the way live by observing how we bury our dead. The history of the Poble Nou is a testament to this idea.

Photo taken by Kristina Nastopkaitė.  

The handsome night tour guide Marietta tells of a cemetery architect, who wanted everyone, regardless of their social standing, to be buried here the same way. His wish, however, was not meant to be honoured for long…

In 1848, the bourgeoisie and the industrial magnates demanded a special place in the Poble Nou for themselves, where they could build their own luxurious pantheons without mixing with the ordinary mortals. For the rich, the famous architects of the era built not only houses, but also gravesites. “Unfortunately, social inequality rules not just in life, but also in death. Let’s be pragmatic, though – the cemetery’s pantheons of the rich are breath-taking architectural monuments!” adds Marietta.

Strange as it is, the most famous person buried in the cemetery was neither rich, nor a famous public figure, but a beatified youth named Francesc Canals, a resident of the Poble Nou. He was noted for his remarkable kindness and ability to foresee the future.

After his death, the young man was titled El Santet (the Little Saint) and became a cult character of the cemetery, as well as a symbol of wish fulfilment. His tomb has an altar with as many as 12 recesses where people leave lit candles and letters with their hopes and dreams. It is said that no one should ask Santet for money, and that, having left one‘s wish on the tomb, one should not take the same way back. “If you want your wish to come true, you should keep going forwards, not back,” said an expert of wish fulfilment in cemeteries.

Photo taken by Kristina Nastopkaitė.  

Every tourist of cemeteries should also visit Montjuïc, located on the slope of a hill near Barcelona, depicted by Pedro Almodóvar in his movie All about My Mother. The architectural monuments of Montjuïc might not be as impressive as those in Poble Nou, but it is the final resting place of most of Barcelona’s celebrities.

Montjuic cemetery
Photo taken by Kristina Nastopkaitė.  Montjuic cemetery

Since Montjuïc greets all the tourists emerging from Barcelona’s airport, it was covered for the 1992 Olympics. Many years have passed since, and the city locals can now finally see that this cemetery is something to be proud of.

Tourist Information:

The Address of the Poble Nou Cemetery: Av. Icària, s/n. 08005 Barcelona

The Address of the Montjuïc Cemetery: Carrer de la Mare de Déu de Port, 56 - 58, 08038 Barcelona

The staged night tours that take place in October in Poble Nou, and in March in Montjuïc are all in Spanish and Catalan. If you speak neither, these night tours are still well worth a visit.

Day time guided tours around cemeteries in Spanish and Catalan take place:

On the first and third Sunday of the month at 10:30 and 12:30 AM in Poble Nou

On the second and fourth Sunday at 11:00 and 11:15 AM in Montjuïc

English cemetery tours take place in summer, or can be specially organised for groups. You can visit the cemeteries on your own every day 8 AM to 6 PM.

You can also download a mobile app to learn of Poble Nou’s attractions, it’s called cementir poble nou. Information in English can be found by using QR codes, located by the most famous gravestones. For more information go to the Barcelona’s cemeteries website at www.cbsa.cat.

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