Category Archives: Spain

Is there a true Gypsy Queen?

The term Gypsy is no longer used by the aforesaid people who prefer to be known as Roma. More of a nickname, several countries claim their own ‘Queen’ .

USA
On January 31, 1915, Kelly Mitchell, Queen of the Gypsy Nation, died at age 47 while giving birth to her 14th child. Although she died in Coatapa, Alabama, she is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, Meridian, Mississippi, USA. Approximately 20,000 Romanies travelled to pay their last respects. The headstone is constantly swathed with beads and trinkets put there to beseech the Queen to provide answers to their problems. Her husband Emil Mitchell, King of the Gypsies, is also buried in the cemetery.

UK
When Ruby Pearl Marshall died in 2016, hundreds of mourners travelled to Wales to pay their respects to the 78 year old who had 52 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The funeral was held at St Tydfil’s Old Parish Church in Merthyr with burial at Glyntaff Cemetery in Pontypridd, Wales. The Romanis followed a century old tradition which allows each family member to choose a keepsake from the deceased’s belongings. The caravan with contents was then burned.

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Ellen McDonagh from Levenshulme, Manchester, England, survived the tragic loss of two husbands. She raised six kids on her own, and at the time of her passing in 2017 she had 40 grandchildren. She was known across England and Ireland as Queen of the Gypsies. Members of the traveller community in Ireland and the UK travelled to Manchester to pay their respects to Ellen.

Spain
Carmen Amaya who was born in 1918 in the slums of Barcelona, Spain became the greatest Flamenco dancer of her generation. She was also known as the Queen of the Gypsies. She died in 1963 of kidney failure and was originally buried in her hometown of Bagur. Her body was later transferred to the family tomb of her husband, Juan Antonio Aguero, in the cemetery of Ciriego, Santander, Spain. The grave is not marked with her name as the family wished to prevent it from becoming an attraction for gypsies.

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A monument of Carmen posed in traditional Flamenco dress is located at the Jardins de Joan Brossa in Montjuïc, Barcelona.

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Kiss of Death

This life size statuary known as the Kiss of Death sculpted in white marble was erected in 1930 and is located in Poblenou Cemetery, Barcelona, Spain.

The sculpture is attributed to Jaume Barba who has his signature on another statue in the cemetery: a full-sized angel placing a wreath on a cross. However, for unknown reasons the name of the sculptor is disputed, and an alternate sculptor, Joan Fontbernat, has been suggested.

The statuary is a memorial to textile manufacturer Llaudet Soler as inscribed on the sarcophagus although all online references state the name to be Josep Llaudet Soler. I found a notation (unverified) which infers that the statue was a memorial to his son who died in youth.

The memorial shows the robust figure of a naked young man on his knees in the act of dying. A winged skeleton (a dual symbol of mortality and resurrection) supports the body as it places a tender kiss on the left temple.

An inscription on the plinth is taken from a poem written by Jacint Verdaguer, one of Catalan’s greatest poets, translates as: His young heart is thus extinguished. The blood in his veins grows cold. And all strength has gone. Faith has been extolled by his fall into the arms of death. Amen

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Mausoleo en Espana

A mausoleum is an external free-standing building (usually stone) with interment space above ground for the remains of many. It is an alternative to individual burial plots when land is premium.

In the City of Granada, Spain, there are many such mausoleums where the coffin is placed in a niche above ground. The niche is usually rented by an entire family for decades to ensure that generations of family members are laid to rest together. If subsequent generations fail to renew the rental agreement and a lease is left to expire, the remains are often then buried.

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This niche also serves as a focal point for the 1st of November ‘Dia de los Muertos’, when respects are paid to those that have passed on that year.

Si nada nos salva de la muerte, al menos que el amor nos salve de la vida. Spanish poet, Pablo Neruda. Translation: If nothing saves us from death, at least loves saves us from life.

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Funerals in Spain usually occur within 24 hours of the death. Word of mouth and notices posted outside the church are the only methods used to inform others of a funeral. Friends or family members hold a vigil in the Tanatorio (funeral home) staying the night with the deceased for one last time. After a funeral service the coffin is transferred to the local Cemetery, often accompanied by a procession of locals walking behind the hearse.

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There is no cure for birth and death, save to enjoy the interval.  Spanish born philosopher, George Santayana.

 

Burial Vessels

Vaults were created to prevent grave robbers from gaining access to freshly buried bodies, and were originally made of wood. Coffins, the universal symbol of death and mortality, are most often placed underground with a gravestone as a marker. Nowadays, the vault is manufactured in metal and is inserted into the ground to prevent the earth and coffin from collapsing. Collapse of the coffin causes the ground to sink and makes maintenance of the cemetery grounds difficult.

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Pere LaChaise Cemetery, Paris, France

Man that is born of a woman is of few days

A sarcophagus is an elaborate coffin which can be created in any medium; wood, stone or metal. It is often only large enough to house one body, often someone of importance, and contains no window or door. It can also be considered a monument as it has a carving or inscription.

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Ye mourning friends as you pass by
This monument survey
Learn ‘ere your solemn hour draws nigh
To choose that better way. 1813

A crypt is an underground stone chamber beneath a church, or in the wall of a religious building. Following entombment, the crypt is sealed, and a granite or marble front is attached.

In the silent tomb we leave them
Till the resurrection morn
When our Saviour will receive them
And restore their lovely form

A tomb is very similar to a sepulcher in that it is typically underground. It can vary greatly in size and often holds the containers of multiple bodies. A sepulcher is a small room or monument, cut in rock or built of stone, in which a dead person is laid or buried. This term is also used to describe a structure with recesses in the wall to receive ashes of the dead.

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Here in the silent tomb beneath this miry sod
Lies one who bore the Cross and trusted in his God;
Farewell, dear wife and friends, and my dear little son,
My work is finished and the prize is won. 1827

An above ground, large, free-standing structure is known as a mausoleum. It may be the resting place of an individual or a family group. It is often ornate with a small stained glass or open metalwork window. It stands as a monument and the more elaborate structures may have an interior chapel.

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Faith Mortal! Seize the transient hour
Improve each moment as it flies
Life’s a short summer, Man a flower
Dies Alas! How soon he dies. – 1831

A cairn or tumulus is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave.

The busy world is hushed
The fever of life over and our work done.

An ossuary is a container or room into which the bones of multiple dead people are placed. The catacombs are a renowned example.

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Pere LaChaise Cemetery, Paris, France

Thy peaceful days shall keep my bones
Till that sweet day
I walk from my long sleep and leave
My bed of clay.
Sweet truth to me
I shall rise and with these eyes
My Saviour see.

Gargoyles

In architecture, a gargoyle is a carved stone sculpture designed with a spout to direct water from the masonry of a building. They were commonly used in Medieval times, particularly on churches and other tall buildings where erosion of the mortar between stones could cause the collapse of a building.

Gargoyles, often hideous representations of dragons or griffins, were mostly mythical beasts used as a protection against evil. The word Gargoyle is derived from a French word meaning throat or pipe, and also from the root word Gar (to swallow) which represents the sound of gurgling water.

Grotesques as the name suggests are also hideous sculptures but with no practical application other than a decorative role to ward off evil spirits, and as an encouragement to attend church to avoid demons in Hell. The most common grotesque is a Chimera (a creature created from the parts of other animals). Grotesques with wings were believed to fly at night, chasing evil spirits while inhabitants of the town slept.

In opposition to the original intention, the ‘grotesque’ appearance of these sculptures led people to believe that the sculptures themselves were evil.

For more information, read http://www.kuriositas.com/2012/08/gargoyles-glorious-gruesome-grotesques.html

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Let’s Get Creepy

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Polloe Cemetery, San Sebastian, Spain
Durisdeer Churchyard, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
Durisdeer Churchyard, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

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Messina, Sicily

A cemetery monument dedicated to a mother and child who were found dead in an embrace under the rubble of the earthquake in Messina 1908.

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Hill of Crosses, near the city of Šiauliai, in northern Lithuania.
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Melaten-Friedhof, Cologne, Germany
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Holocaust memorial, Pere Lachaise, Paris, France
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Brugges cemetery, Belgium
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Ingolstadt, Bavaria

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Poblenou Cemetery, Barcelona, Spain
Poblenou Cemetery, Barcelona, Spain

1930 sculpture titled Kiss of Death depicts death planting a kiss on a young man’s forehead.

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Johannis Cemetery, Nürnberg, Germany

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Cimitero Monumentale, Milan, Italy
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Cementiri de Montjuïc, Barcelona, Spain

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Port Charlotte Florida
Spanish moss on trees in Florida

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Scroll Symbolism

These gravestones are engraved with a scroll which is a symbol of life and time. Rolled at both ends it indicates a life that is unfolding like a scroll of uncertain length where the past and future are hidden.

It can also suggest honor and commemoration; the Law and the Scriptures.

A scroll can also represent the Torah which represents the first five books of the Old Testament.

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Granada, Spain