There’s something inherently beautiful about a cemetery. It’s not just the peace and quiet, which is of course an inevitable feature of every cemetery or graveyard, but the tangible demonstration of human emotion shown by the care taken by those living for the memories of their beloved dead. This can be seen through the wording of a grave, through the flowers carefully laid alongside it, and through the regular cleaning of the stone with as much care as would be taken for a feature of a living household. There is also something innately civilised about caring for the dead and paying homage to the past, not least because it can make us more appreciative of our life and the lives of others still around us.
While I do like an English graveyard, headstones tilting in all directions and covered in moss and decay, my favourite type of cemetery is a Spanish cemetery, whose tranquil atmosphere is more than embellished by the regular presence of sunshine filtering through the large dark cypress trees which are a regular inhabitant of such places. But I also love how seriously Spanish society takes its dead, and whenever I take a stroll in Marbella’s cemetery in Southern Spain, I am always touched by the number of locals visiting their family graves, with rubber gloves and cleaning products to hand, ensuring that all looks clean and well maintained. It’s a bit like the beginning scene from Pedro Almodovar’s brilliant film, Volver, when a visit to the family grave is both a family tradition and a time to gather and reminisce.
Of course it will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog that my overriding reasons for visiting a Spanish cemetery are artistic ones, and Marbella’s has more than once inspired me to take many a photograph of the scene. For in the sheer volume of marble fronted graves, both within private family mausoleums and piled up on top of one another like bookshelves in neat rows, these graves make for an excellent photographic subject, not least because of the variety and dedications, flowers, family memorabilia and photos. And on top of all of that, the sunshine is always on hand to provide warmth to the photographs and plenty of contrast between light and shade.
So here are the photos I took on my recent stroll around Marbella’s cemetery. Hopefully like me you will see the inherent beauty of the place, which far from being morbid, is a place of tranquillity, devotion and hope.
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