Recoleta Cemetery – History
Buenos Aires Tour

Presentation of historical facts of the Recoleta Cemetery -  walking tour in famous Buenos Aires necropolis, city within the city, gallery of art and an open book of Argentina’s history.

Page 1

Recoleta Cemetery - Introduction and Maps

       I know how strange it may sound recommending you a cemetery as one of “must-to-see” places, but let me make it clear - your visit to Buenos Aires won’t be complete without a trip to the Recoleta Cemetery.

Firstly- in difference to typical US graveyards with commemorative stones, plaques and simple crosses dotting well maintained lawns, the Recoleta necropolis is a real City of the Dead.

It is a place where the “Underground” emerges from the “Total Darkness” proudly exposing its otherwise invisible world in large sections of city-like blocks divided by the network of wide alleys and labyrinth of narrow streets.

Along them, standing mostly side-by-side are beautiful mausoleums, vaults and monuments…..

Well, crossing the main gate of the Recoleta cemetery, you enter an extraordinary exhibition of different architectonic styles, finishing materials, ornamentation beautified by remarkable life-size sculptures.

Map of the Buenos Aires necropolis 
Source: Asociación de Amigos del Cementerio de la Recoleta – (ADACRE), Design: Jorge Carman 

The continuous line shows the suggested path for visitors

Left-click on the picture to get its full size version 

    The cemetery is a good symbol of Buenos Aires’ golden age from the turn of 19th and 20th century, time when its wealthy elite was commissioning finest architects to build places for their mortal remains in the image of their churches, chapels and palaces. They literally build a city within the city, mirroring the lavishness of the life outside of the cemetery walls….

List of grave-sites of interest. 
Source: Asociación de Amigos del Cementerio de la Recoleta – (ADACRE) 
Design: Jorge Carman 

Left-click on the picture to get its full size version 

     No wonder that entering this Recoleta’s necropolis you feel like entering an outdoor Art Gallery. But this is just the first visual observation followed by reflections….

Here, like in every renowned Art Gallery collecting masterpieces from the remote past - behind each object “on display” you find stories, myths, true and “unconfirmed” facts from private and public lives of those resting in peace.

You have to know that Recoleta is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. As a result its necropolis is a “living” lesson of the Argentinean history.

It brings together, sometimes even side-by side (what seems inconceivable during their life-times) men of politics and power – former Argentinean presidents (19 after burial of Raúl Alfonsin in 2009), generals and high ranking militaries.…..

    It is a resting place for renowned artists, industrialists, scientists (including Nobel Prize winners) and simply members of influential porteños’ families, some for the honor they brought to the country, some merely for the fact of being rich… It seems that old animosities somehow lost their sharpness or are gone….They all seem to rest in peace equal….or so…

Well, here is also a final place for Eva Duarte de Peron – a “magnet” for many and oddly - an excuse for some to keep away….a sharp exception to the rule of peace.

Now you may better understand that being in Buenos Aires you should not miss the Recoleta Cemetery. This walled area of about 5,5 hectares in the center of Barrio Recoleta is rightly considered as one of the three most important graveyards in the world - with Pére Lachaise in Paris and Cimitero di Staglieno (Staglieno Cemetery) in Genoa (Italy).

Walls of the Buenos Aires' necropolis seen from the Calle Junin.

    But there is one caveat – to truly take advantage of your trip to the Argentina’s past in Recoleta, to fully appreciate the greatness of an art unfolding in front of your eyes and to at least partially comprehend the complexity of Argentina’s history you should take the guided visit. Otherwise, you will miss the most important part of your visit – “The Invisible”, the stories, tales and myths kept hidden by the Underground World….

Good news – every Tuesday and Thursday there are free English guided tours starting at 11:00 am from the main entrance at Calle Junin (please check for the latest schedule). Be ready for about 2 hours walking tour of this stunningly beautiful and peaceful City of the Dead.

and what is hidden behind the walls - view from the top of the nearby building...

      You may also opt for a private tour - there is a great variety of walking tours easy to find on-line with prices ranging from $10 to $25 US. The bottom line is – no matter what, you should take a guided tour….

Please note that in front of the main entrance you can get the map of the cemetery with suggested directions for individual visitors and list of most important gravesites.

The map is free but it is strongly suggested to offer few AR pesos that will be used by the Cemetery of Recoleta Friends Association (Asociación de Amigos del Cementerio de la Recoleta – ADACRE) for “up-keeping” works.

Recoleta Cemetery: Gallery of Pictures

City within a city with vaults next to each other along the narrow streets....

and below: some stunningly beautiful pieces of art in  forms of Mausoleums at every corner in this necropolis.

 After the guided tour, amateurs of photography may opt for more time along the streets of this magical necropolis…..

        Please keep in mind however that Recoleta, despite being an open air Art Gallery and Museum of Argentinean History, it is also, and may be first of all The Cemetery. Do not be “too intrusive” in exploring the beauty and secrets of this necropolis. While there is nothing wrong with taking pictures of mausoleums, sculptures and monuments it is highly disrespectful to in a “sneak-in” way invade the privacy of departed through sometimes opened doors, broken windows or falling apart coffins… 

This one is belonging to the family of Julio V. Bunce

Gaudi-like style of the twin-mausoleum for Matias F. Erausouin and for the family of Jose Lopez Villarino;

Mausoleum of Juan B. Repetto and his family;

Mausoleum of Jose Castano and his family 

Simplicity is what makes it so beautiful ...

 Rarely seen so clear religious motifs in the Recoleta necropolis. 

     Inspired by the American education system, President Sarmiento provided grants for foreign teachers to come to Argentina to help re-shaping the local schooling especially that for women. Emma de Caprile was one of the first answering the call, arriving to Buenos Aires in 1870.

In 1874 she founded the Escuela Normal de Maestras de la Provincia de Buenos Aires initially located at Quinta de Cambaceres (Av. Montes de Oca 9, Barrio de Barracas).

As its first director, teacher and great organizer she greatly contributed to the modernization of “lucking fresh ideas” Argentinean education system. Her school trained many respected teachers that were able to fulfill Sarmiento’s dream – create a modern well educated society.

The reminiscent sculpture (work of Ernesto Cárcova) shows Emma Caprile teaching her nephew....

Mausoleum of  Emma Nicolay de Caprile 

(declared as the National Historical Monument) 

 Mausoleum of Francisco Javier Muñiz 

      Dr. Francisco Javier Muñiz was a physician and scientist, noted for his medical and epidemiological research, as well as pioneering discoveries in paleontology. He is considered the first naturalist Argentine. Most part of his early years he spent in the Argentinean army as physician and surgeon, reaching the rank of the lieutenant colonel. During that time he heavily contributed to the progress in vaccination saving countless lives.

Later after being elected provincial senator and the president of the Faculty of Medicine (University of Buenos Aires) he devoted most of his time to the natural science. He exchanged many letters with Charles Darwin providing him with his paleontological discoveries, observations and ideas.

In 1871, during the outbreak of yellow fever, he volunteered to help victims of this deadly disease. His humble life was prematurely ended in April of the same year by the same disease he was fighting with….

 Monument of Dr. Toribio Ayerza. 

     Dr. Toribio Ayerza was a doctor of medicine of Basque’s origin, respected for his innovative work in cardiology. He performed the first operation of tracheotomy in Argentina.

He was also known for his tireless charitable initiatives and contributions. He founded the Argentinean Red Cross being his honorary president.

The monument standing on the rock foundation is made from Carrara marble by Miguel Sansebastiano. The rock itself seems to symbolize the strong foundation of his work based on virtues – Compassion, Dedication, Charity…

The nursing female figure with two children symbolizes the charity work. The hopeless angel next to the bust of Dr. Toribio Ayerza, pointing down the “torch of life” expresses the despair that the life of such Great and Humble man ended its earthly stage….

To continue the tour of the Recoleta Cemetery, learn its history and facts, see the amazing beauty of the grave-sites and hear the known as well as "untold" stories and tales from the famous necropolis, please select the link:
La Recoleta Cemetery History -cont next (page 2) 

      Not sure yet where to go and what to see in Argentina? You may find help selecting: Tourist Destinations in Argentina 

However if you are falling in love with Buenos Aires (I do not blame you, it happened to me) then please select: Buenos Aires Walking Tours 

If you want to prepare yourself for vacation in Argentina then please select: Argentina Travel Tips    

I hope that this page inspired you to continue this walking tour to discover more Argentinian history, admire art and learns secrets hidden behind the walls of the  Recoleta Cemetery....

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