Remember we have created an album composed of 93 images from Recoleta Cemetery in Flickr. Visit the cemetery again & again!
Posts about Art + Architecture
Recognized Argentine architects like Julián García Núñez & Alejandro Christophersen helped build Recoleta Cemetery and were buried there as well. But surprisingly few burial sites for major architects are known today. Perhaps they shared a similar fate as that of Julio Dormal…
Born in 1846 in Liège (Belgium), Jules Dormal Godet arrived in Argentina after studying architecture in Paris. Early business deals failed but after settling in Buenos Aires in 1870, Dormal’s timing & contacts could not have been better. Sarmiento hired him to design a new park—Parque 3 de Febrero—previously occupied by the estate of the President’s arch-enemy, Juan Manuel de Rosas.
Many more projects followed. In fact, Dormal was responsible for several landmarks still visible today in Buenos Aires. He designed the tomb to house the remains of General San Martín inside the cathedral (top photo above). After the assassination of architect Victor Meano, he continued construction of the National Congress:
Meano also left the Teatro Colón incomplete, so Dormal took over as well & designed much of the interior:
In following years, Dormal completed or executed from start to finish many of the aristocratic mansions in the northern sector of the city. The Palacio Pereda now houses the Brazilian embassy:
Unfortunately many of those grand houses have since been demolished. But the residence for Julio Peña still stands on Calle Florida, now occupied by the Sociedad Rural Argentina. Non-members can get a peek at the luxury inside by going for lunch at the restaurant:
Not limited to only Buenos Aires, Dormal also built several notable structures in other cities. Perhaps his most emblematic work outside the capital is the very afrancesado Casa de Gobierno in La Plata:
Dormal passed away in 1924 & was buried in Recoleta Cemetery inside the mausoleum belonging to his wife, Elena Sosa Díaz. But his remains were cremated in 1989 and, according to cemetery records, were likely placed inside the Dolmas Arévalo vault. Why? No one knows. However, neither the Sosa Díaz tomb nor that of Dolmas Arévalo exist today.
Hopefully Jules Dormal continues to rest in peace wherever he may be.
Photos of the Casa de Gobierno in La Plata courtesy of Marcelo Metayer.
Lots of well-known people have busts placed on the exterior of the mausoleum… public reminders of important public figures. Good examples are physician/paleontologist Francisco Javier Muñiz, architect & founder of La Plata Pedro Benoit, Irish chaplain Anthony Fahy, teacher Emma Nicolay de Caprile, & the queen of grumpy Tiburcia del Carril.
Others are more private, placed inside the mausoleum, meant for primarily for family members. All the more reason to take a peek inside!
Born in 1862, Isaac Fernández Blanco came from a family with an extensive history in the city of Corrientes. Isaac’s grandfather, Ángel, fought during independence wars against the Spanish but later moved to Buenos Aires, switching interests from politics to business.
In 1895, Isaac began to spend the family fortune on an impressive collection of Spanish colonial art. Even though an engineer by trade, his passion for period objects transformed the family house into a museum which eventually opened to the public. Isaac remained the museum’s honorary director until one year before his death in 1928.
Family members continued to add to Isaac’s collection, & in 1947 the museum found a new location: the Palacio Noel. The Neocolonial residence built by architect Martín Noel serves as the perfect backdrop for the collection:
Also buried in the family mausoleum is Naír Mercedes Fernández Blanco de Gowland, who founded the Asociación Guías Argentinas in 1953… during the last years of her life. The AGA is the local equivalent of the Girl Scouts, & a plaque reminds passersby of her contribution to Argentina:
Between 1869 & 1871, Buenos Aires endured two disastrous epidemics: first, cholera, that left 9,000 dead & second, yellow fever, which claimed 14,000 victims. The city government put into practice new sanitation practices, including the removal of tanneries & slaughterhouses from residential areas. Business owners received big tax breaks if they agreed to relocate.
Due to those incentives, Juan Bautista Berisso—an Genovese immigrant born in 1834—purchased 28 hectares in Ensenada, near the future location of La Plata. He established a successful tannery & in following years acquired a distillery, a vegetable oil factory, dock facilities & a number of cattle ranches.
Berisso passed away in 1893 & is buried in an extraordinary family plot rarely seen by tourists because of its somewhat hidden location. Beautiful works by Italian sculptor Alessandro Biggi decorate the mausoleum, with Chronos (Father Time) on the left, a female angel with an anchor on the right & two lions guarding the entrance:
In La Plata, another branch of the Berisso family built the largest mausoleum in the cemetery, currently abandoned:
A favorite photo from the Colección Witcomb shows quite a different Recoleta Cemetery than the one that can be visited today. A few façades & domes remain to provide orientation, but sadly what was likely the largest mausoleum of that time no longer exists:
Its identity remained uncertain until the following clip appeared in the excellent collection of images curated by Argentina Vintage:
Just what I’d been looking for! A bit of research & a similar photo can be found in society magazine Caras y Caretas for Columbus Day, Día de la Raza, Día de la Hispanidad… a.k.a. October 12th.
As self-help organizations grew along with immigration, so did the need for burial space. The Asociación Española de Socorros Mutuos moved to Chacarita in 1896, eventually selling their group pantheon in Recoleta. Although demolished today, the new mausoleum by architect Alejandro Christophersen proved to be even more luxurious.