Cemeteries / Defining the subject of study pt II

A brief history of the cemeteries in Porto












The habit of using the inside of the church as a burying ground comes from the beginning of Christianity, although it has often been regarded as abusive since sinners were buried next to the relics of saints. However, the Catholic Church has never managed to avoid that. Only rarely the dead were buried far from the churches; when a large number of mortalities occurred or in the case of non catholic deceased.

Population factors and hygiene issues together with an ideological context of Enlightenment, generated some arguments about this matter but because  the process of secularization of Portuguese society was quite delayed compared to other European countries, there were no promising results. It was not until 1835 that we witness the construction of a cemetery in the city.

Cemitério da Lapa

In 1833 the Brotherhood of Nossa Senhora da Lapa, asked  D. Pedro IV the authorization to build a private cemetery. The Order might have suggested a mere  land annex for temporary graves but it was clear from the whole process of construction that the Brotherhood really intended a  “modern” cemetery, similar to the ones built in Paris some decades before. So,  the cemetery of Lapa, although it isn’t public, is considered the oldest “modern” cemetery. The Lapa Cemetery was officially blessed in the summer of 1838, and the first monuments appeared in 1839.











Cemitério Prado do Repouso

In December of 1839 was also inaugurated the first public cemetery in Porto: Prado do Repouso. Initially only the poorest inhabitants of the city were buried here ; wealthy and intelectual citizens, , preferred to be buried in Cemitério da Lapa. If they were more”conservative” they might’ve prefered to be buried in the cemeteries of several other orders and brotherhoods in the city. These cemeteries were located in the outside of their churches (partially fulfilling the decree of 1835), but they weren’t yet arranged in a  particular order following the  “modern” model. Given this scenario, it was impossible for  the municipal cemetery of Prado do Repouso to become larger and magnificent like other romantic cemeteries around Europe. Several times the civil authorities tried to stop the privilege given to private burial orders, but this resulted in serious tumults that contested this law.

It was only in 1855 that the situation of cemeteries in Porto changed, since there was a major outbreak of cholera. The civil authorities were able to close the private cemeteries that didn’t held proper burial conditions and, in parallel, built a new municipal cemetery: Agramonte.

Cemitério de Agramonte

Initially, this cemetery was used primarily as a place to bury those who fell victimes to the epidemic of cholera. Now there were two Municipal Cemeteries and people started to see Prado do Repouso as a more dignifying resting place since it wasn’t build in a rush like Agramonte (whose chapel was actually made in wood). This led to the construction of more noble monuments and gravestones in Prado do Repouso.












After the epidemic of 1855, all the graveyards belonging Brotherhood’s were eventually reopened, although it was already becoming less commun the investment on maintenance of those cemeteries where there weren’t proper conditions. In a long and difficult process, each Brotherhood ended up negotiating with the Porto’s local government to acquire private sections in municipal cemeteries. The first order to do so was the Santa Casa da Misericórdia , gaining ground in the Prado do Repouso. Order orders followed like the Ordem do Terço e da Caridade e da Confraria do Santíssimo Sacramento de Sto. Ildefonso.


New books on the way

New books on the way!

Although I was able to easily get the books I needed to continue the investigation, I’m having trouble finding the first one in the list : Cemitérios, Jazigos e Sepulturas by Vítor Manuel Dias. It was last edited in the late 60’s so it’s probably only sold on old/antique bookstores. Let me know if you have seen it somewhere else.

Cemeteries / Defining the Subject of Study pt I

Now that a field has been defined, we must take it a step further. There is the need to proceed to what is considered a more broad and unfocused research in order to find the most relevant points of interest.

Cemeteries abroad

San Michele, Venice










Merry Cemetery, Romania











Arlington National Cemetery, USA












Old Jewish Cemetery, Prague










Pere La Chaise, Paris










La Recoleta, Buenos Aires











Pagoda Forest Cemetery, China










Okuno Cemetery, Japan











Commun rural portuguese cemeteries

Major Project – Early Beginnings

Possible Themes

It’s usually difficult to start a new project let alone a major final thesis. In any case, I decided to build a very broad list  with various elements that were, somehow, of interest to me. I thought about the fact that during the last year we were presented a problem/project, and no matter what, we had to find a solution for it.

Eventually I was able to draw some possible and more realistic subjects of study from this initial set of ideas. These selected areas would prove to be more or less successful in what regards interesting and unique formal/graphic languages.

Subjects of Study

The main areas I proposed  to explore were:

  • Trovadorismo
  • A Linguagem Folclórica da Superstição
  • Livros Proibidos
  • Colecções digitais
  • Ciclo Gastronómico
  • Cemitérios


Forbidden Books

“Estas ciências (ocultas) eram ensinadas e encaradas de forma natural até ao Renascimento. Só a partir do século XVII, com o advento do racionalismo e das chamadas ‘luzes’, se tornaram marginais e não entendidas”

José Medeiros in Ciência Hoje

Initially there was an intention of exploring the graphic language of these mystical books but it quickly developed to the ambition of studying the evolution of these hidden publications in History. Portuguese literature was deeply marked by the presence of censorship agents during Salazar’s regime  so the idea of working these alternative science related forbidden books, moved on to being something specifically connected to the influence of censorship on the methods of production and distribution. In terms of a final product, this could be materialized in a re-edition of books that were vetoed during the fascism period or in an exhibition of the analysed work. “Por outro lado, esta linguagem cifrada criava nos leitores uma atitude de hipercriticismo – duvidava-se de tudo o que se lia, procurando-se apreender segundos significados, até onde eles não existiam.”


The Portuguese Folk Language of Superstition

“Existem benzeduras para quase tudo: cobreiro, sapão, quebranto, espinhela caída, dor de cabeça, etc., tal como há rezas com os mais diversos objectivos: para conseguir casamento, para dormir, para ser feliz, para abrandar os mais exaltados, etc.” In Trilhos da cultura popular portuguesa The second possible field of study was the folk language used in traditional alternative products. These products are often used to keep away bad luck and in the treatment or prevention of all kinds of health problems.

The project aimed to re-brand some of these products in order to make them more appealing to a broader audience. This would presuppose an investigation regarding the symbology often used in the packaging of traditional portuguese products, a language that has been replaced with a not so appealing treatment of both typography and image.


Food Fest

‘Gastronomy involves discovering, tasting, experiencing, researching, understanding and writing about food preparation and the sensory qualities of human nutrition as a whole. It also studies how nutrition interfaces with the broader culture. Later on, the application of biological and chemical knowledge to cooking has become known as molecular gastronomy, yet gastronomy covers a much broader, interdisciplinary ground.’ The fourth considered possibility was to organize a food related event. The results were wide open, they wandered through organizing themed pop up restaurants – like the ones organized by Restaurants in Residence, to putting up a Gastronomy related film festival ( similar to the NYC Food Film Fest), while still developing it’s graphic language . Like the previous suggested projects, this idea was discarded. Although it sounds terribly fun to develop, this was a fairly ambitious proposal (almost impossible to accomplish) and also wasn’t a solid area to explore in what regards the field of graphic design. _


During a random image search in google I found, completely by accident, an old article about funerary art in France. The newspaper pages stood out due to beautiful images of some 19th century monumental gravestones. This was the beginning of what it seems to be now my Major Project. I’ve always been interested in the eerie essence of both churches and cemeteries and I’ve always wondered  about their sobriety and majesty. This led me to think about how graphic design works within these kinds of environments.