Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Cemetery of Pleasures

Photo courtesy of Luis Morgado.  Please visit the link to see his other pictures of Lisbon's wonderful architecture.
Cemetery of Pleasures:  that's got to be the most evocative name for a cemetery I've ever heard. But really, it's named after the Lisbon neighborhood where it can be found -- Prazeres -- "Pleasures" in English.

It's also right around the corner from a street where one can buy just about any drug one could desire, from branca to cavalo, or so I'm told. Cemetery of Pleasures indeed.

The cemetery is filled with the kind of memento mori that would make a goth kid spontaneously, to paraphrase The Lonely Island, jizz in their pants.

What caught my eye was a large tomb, pictured above. There was no indication as to what it was or who it contained. I'd meant to write about it at the time I wrote a few other posts about Lisbon (Dr. Martins' got soul and Axis-sixA) but didn't get around to it until my last post jogged my memory.

This pyramid is the Jazigo dos Duques de Palmela or Tomb of the Dukes of Palmela. According to Mort Safe, it was designed by Giuseppe Cinatti, a Freemason, under the direction of Pedro de Sousa Holstein (1781-1850). Pedro was one of the leading diplomats of his time and was named 1st Duke of Palmela for his services. Early versions of the Wikipedia entry on Sousa Holstein say he was a Freemason, but the current version has been changed.

The tomb was built near the end of its patron's life, between 1846-1849. Mort Safe makes some interesting observations about apparent Masonic symbolism I didn't get to see, as it was not open to visits when I was there.

First of all is the massive pyramid....which is unfinished.

Remember that one of masonic legends says that the Master Hiram Abiff, responsible for building the Temple of Solomon, was assassinated before completing the work, leaving the unfinished temple. This face, where it is usual to put up a stone Benben to complete the pyramid (or obelisk), is a statue, which some authors attribute to Calmels. This statue is a female figure, often identified as the Angel of Death....and is probably one of the Seven Virtues....

As Mort Safe points out, there are other Masonic symbols. There are seven steps leading to the gate. These could represent the seven virtues, seven liberal arts, seven ages of man. Between the gate and the tomb itself the ground is paved with black and white stones forming 12 lozenges. The Temple of Solomon allegedly had decorative motifs on the floor in contrasting black and white geometrical shapes. A grid of black and white tiling is still a common feature of Masonic Lodges in some jurisdictions.

Mort Safe also mentions that the statue on the unfinished top is holding a cross and thus conforms to the practice of "Christianizing" the pagan monument, something I mentioned in my last post about the obelisks fronting the cemetery of Levignac. The most famous precedent for this practice would have to be the obelisk in St. Peter's Square. The bronze cross at the top of this obelisk contains a fragment of the True Cross and has exorcising formulas inscribed on two sides of the base.

Other sources indicate the mausoleum contains over 200 bodies, all from the same family with the exception of two priests. That it reproduces the symbolism of a Masonic Temple is also confirmed.

Cinatti (1808-1879) was born in Siena and settled in Lisbon in 1836. He was most famous as a set designer and interior decorator, although he did do considerable work in painting and architecture.

The Prazeres Cemetery was built after a cholera outbreak in 1833. It is the biggest cemetery in Lisbon and is known for being the final resting place of many of its notable citizens, especially those involved in the arts.

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