cuba heritage .com - Cuban History, Architecture & Culture
The Colon Cemetery
Christopher Columbus Avenue
by Directorio Turistico de Cuba
Central Chapel
by Directorio Turistico de Cuba
With 131 years of history, the Colón Cemetery is an impressive symbol of a meeting between today`s Cuba and silence, in memory of the many generations that rest in the Havana graveyard.
Also known as the Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus) Cemetery, it was built on a project by Galician architect Calixto Arellano de Loira y Cardoso, who had graduated from Madrid`s Royal Academy of Arts of San Fernando.
In 1869, Arellano de Loira`s project won a contest to build a new cemetery in the Cuban capital, promoted as `The pale death enters both the cabins of the poor and the palaces of kings`.

The first works in the graveyard began in October 1871, and already in the 19th century, the fame of the Colón Cemetery traveled the world in the tourist guides of the time, devoted to inform on the most interesting sites in the capital of the largest Antillean island.
A true architectural monument, the Colón Cemetery also has the honor of being the only American graveyard dedicated to the famous admiral who discovered the island and other major destinations in the continent.
Precisely, the iron gate to the cemetery, at the so-called `Gate of Peace`, bears three C`s (CCC) in honor of the man who said that Cuba was `the most beautiful island that human eyes have seen`.

The main access to the graveyard is at the majestic northern portico, where an impressive 22.5-meter-tall sculpture in the form of an arc of triumph is located.
Visitors are attracted by unique symbols, such as inverted torches, that remind them about the end of life, as well as branches of laurel and winged hourglasses marking the irreversible nature of earthly life.
Later on, in 1901 to be exact, another sculpture - made of the world famous Carrara marble and built in Italy by Cuban sculptor José Villalta Saavedra - crowned the northern portico.

The work, entitle `The Three Theological Virtues` - Faith, Hope and Charity -, bears an inscription in Latin (Janua Sum Pacis), after which that portico was called the Gate of Peace.
The main entrance to the world of the dead is decorated with two medallions, allegoric to `Jesus` crucifixion` and `Lazarus` resurrection`, giving a hierarchic role to the portico of the Havana cemetery.
Once inside the silent place, two wide avenues - known as Cristóbal Colón and Obispo Espada (from north to south) and Fray Jacinto (from east to west) - are the major markers to divide the cemetery into four areas called quarters.
Those areas have become the resting place of thousands of Cubans who lie under the tutelage of hundreds of pantheons, or simply in the earth, that give refuge to the bodies of the inhabitants of this island when they die.
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