The cemetery grounds holds 800,000 graves with 1 million interments spread over 56 hectares of land in a rectangular shape with the chapel in the center. 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, 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 immigrants have been buried here….it even contains the corpses of the US Marines that died on the Warship the ‘Maine’ which exploded in the Havana harbour on 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.
The entrance fee (no tour) is a few CUC and well worth it in my opinion. They offer tours but I didn’t check to see the when and how much. It’s Cuba, it shouldn’t be a lot of money. A great way to spend an hour or two, there’s no end to photo ops here, absolutely wonderful.
A few notable tombs: independence leader General Máximo Gómez (1836-1905), novelist Alejo Carpentier (1904–80), Señora Amelia Goyri, better known as La Milagrosa, scientist Carlos Finlay (1833–1915), the Martyrs of Granma and the Veterans of the Independence Wars, singer Ibrahim Ferrer (1927–2005), pianist Rubén González (1919–2003) and the firefighters monument (1890).
8am-6pm, last entry 5pm