So the Pleasure Cemetery (Prazeres in Portuguese) lies in the west of the city (or what used to be the west), and is the twin the Cemetery of Alto de São João in the east. At first glance, they do seem very similar – both on enviable hillside locations, both full of family mausoleums, with some truly outstanding examples, and both with statues to notable (or rich) people. But after wandering through Prazeres this afternoon (luckily the rain let up for a few hours), I have to say that I think this one is slightly better of the two. By that I mean the mausoleums are not as dilapidated – most broken doors have been replaced by metal sheets, and overall they don’t seem as forlorn as some of the ones at São João. Similarly, the statues here were more interesting in that there was more variety beyond religious figures and/or portraits of the dead. In addition, the fact that Prazeres was not so steeply inclined made it easier to wander around, which was a definite advantage. There are also more trees here – in fact, it has the largest and oldest concentration of cypress trees on the Iberian peninsula. In any event, both were really interesting to wander around, but if you had limited time in Lisbon, this is the one that I would choose.*
*I had a couple other cemeteries on my list – Ajuda and the British Cemetery, but the former was closed today and the latter is closed on weekends. I suppose I could go see Ajuda tomorrow, but I have plans to go to Evora, so it will have to wait for another visit to this lovely city – hopefully the next time I come here it won’t be raining everyday! (Edit – I did end up going to Ajuda since I didn’t feel well enough to go to Evora as planned).
One of the first imposing structures I came across was the Mausoleum of Pedro de Sousa Holstein, who was the Duke of Palmela (1781-1850). Apparently it’s the largest private mausoleum in all of Europe, holding 200 bodies, all family members (with the exception of 2 priests). It’s a huge pyramid and has a large patio in front of it, but I didn’t really explore it (I do have a photo which I hope to put up here soon).
Like many similar cemeteries of its kind, there were plenty of laid-back cemetery cats to be found within the grounds as well.
As I walked through row upon row of fairly uniform mausoleums, it was interesting to pick out the different emblems and symbols that were carved upon them. Some were recurrent – inverted torches (I love the Portuguese flourishes on these), flowers, cherubs, angels, tools of the trade, winged hourglasses (often with scythes), and skulls and/or crossbones. I was pleasantly surprised to see an old printing press on one of the mausoleums – probably not something most people would recognize, but as I used to work with one when I worked at a museum in Toronto, it brought a flush a pleasure to recognize it (see the photos closer to the beginning). A couple monuments featured arms (see below).
Monuments: A lot of mausoleums, mostly modest in size, but some were very large and elaborate. There’s more variety of statues here, some are in hidden lanes, it’s well worth exploring every crook.
Grounds: This is the 2nd largest cemetery in Lisbon, but it is smaller than its eastern twin. Although it is also located on a hillside, the slope is not as steep and it’s much easier to walk around and explore. This cemetery seems a bit more well-kept, may be in part the more active staff I noticed patrolling the grounds while I was there.
Visitors: Surprisingly, a fair number of tourists were here (by that I mean about 10-15). I guess it’s not that surprising, as it’s near the palace and the #28 tram runs right by here. No one seemed to stay as long as I did though.
Notes: Like São João, many statues are at the top of mausoleums, making for blown out skies if you want to expose them properly. However, most of them are standard angels or other pious figures (often repetitive). Most of the really interesting statues are at ground level. I was here for the last 2 hours it was open, but that felt rushed – an extra hour or two would have been nice to spend here.
Cemetery: Cemitério dos Prazeres (Pleasure Cemetery)
Notable Internments: Many notable Portuguese, unfortunately I don’t recognize any of them.
Location: Praça São João Bosco 568, 1350-295 Lisboa
Hours: 09:00-17:00 (Oct – Apr) to 18:00 May-Sept. Last entrance 30 minutes before closing.