Montjuic cemetery still manages to stand out in Barcelona, a city of magnificent places. In fact, out of the many cemeteries I’ve visited in Mexico, Ukraine and Germany (to name a few), Montjuic cemetery ranks at the very top. My friend Fiar, from the excellent Catalan band Foscor, told me that Montjuic cemetery was one of the places that I absolutely needed to visit when I was in Barcelona in June of this year.
It was my last day in Barcelona. I wasn’t ready to leave but luckily had a red-eye flight back to Germany, which meant I practically had the entire day to explore and hang out. There are a million amazing places to visit in Barcelona, but out of all the ones I had yet to see, Montjuic cemetery was the one I decided to visit that day.
At the Gates
I walked up to the cemetery gates and took a moment to look at it before going in. Montjuic cemetery is perched up on a hill, so the only thing I could see from down there were seemingly unending stone walls spiraling upward like the tower of Babel. I followed the walls all the way up with my eyes until I was blinded by the Mediterranean midday sun.
Montjuic cemetery faces a very busy port, and the sight of cranes together with the noise of traffic takes away from the atmosphere a bit. Still, when walking up, you feel like you’re in a different world, as this necropolis is incredibly lavish in its architecture and, being in Barcelona, has a distinct artistic feel.
Montjuic cemetery was opened on March 17, 1883, to replace the cemetery of Poblenou. By the way, the cemetery of Poblenou is also worth visiting if only just for the kiss of death statue (pic at the bottom of this article).
Montjuic cemetery was established at a time when fin-de-siècle artistic movements were developing their own particular character in Catalunya, due to which many graves and mausoleums have a distinct Art Nouveau or Modernisme twist, be in the architecture or even simply the fonts used on the graves. In fact, the walls made me think of Park Güell, as they are both covered in brown stones. Montjuic cemetery is the final resting place of countless artists and architects, and their gravestones are of great artistic value.
I associate Barcelona with art and architecture, music and rebellion. The city has its own unique character and overflows with creativity. I understood Montjuic cemetery as quintessentially Catalan because of the combination of Gothic and modernist elements that somehow reflect the city itself.
Locals had better things to do than wander around a cemetery that day, which was fine with me because I had the place all to myself. I took the time to walk and explore, trying to find the most impressive graves.
I don’t know how long I was there for. Silence eventually gave way to the cries of seagulls, which increased and decreased in intensity without me really noticing until I got to a clearing high up on the hill and started walking toward a tomb I saw in the distance.
I noticed that the seagulls were not only getting louder but were flying closer to where I was. The closer I got to the grave the closer they flew to my head. At that point I decided to turn around and leave. As I got closer to the exit they went back to “their” part of the cemetery.
The whole thing felt a bit surreal and I couldn’t believe what had just happened. On my way to the bus stop I looked up “gaviotas montjuic” online and found out that there is an actual seagull infestation at Montjuic cemetery. The articles mentioned people being attacked by seagulls when visiting their loved ones buried at the cemetery. Apparently, part of the cemetery has been taken over by seagulls, and they don’t like it when outsiders approach their nests.
Later that afternoon I met up with a couple of friends and told them what had happened over a glass of wine. They were not surprised—everybody in Barcelona knows that seagulls are the worst. Still, Montjuic cemetery is very possibly the most impressive cemetery I have ever visited.
One more thing: If you want some more tips about Barcelona, check out this video with my friends from Foscor.
Last but not least: I won’t write an article about Poblenou cemetery but still want to share the pic of the “Kiss of Death” statue with you, so here you go.
Do you ever visit cemeteries when you travel? Which is the most impressive you’ve seen? Share it with the community!
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