This English, or Protestant cemetery is considered to be the first that was built in Spain and is, indeed, the most well-preserved example of its kind in the whole of Europe.
It has been open to the public since November 2005 from 10a.m to 2.30p.m Monday to Sunday. And the services are held in the chapel on Sunday mornings at 10a.m. Entrance is free of charge and for all.
It was built in April 1830 because of a Royal order pronounced by King Fernando VII. The dedication and commitment of the British Counsellor Sir William Mark was also very decisive in its construction.
It was the first one of its kind to be built in Spain and without doubt an important part of the history of our city can be found enclosed within the walls of this unique necropolis.
This necropolis is also a beautiful garden full of a wide variety of plant species which are of specific botanical interest.
At the outset, the space available was divided into two separate areas; one for the burial area and another for a garden. However, with the passing of time, the burial space had to be enlarged due to the demand for more space as the original allocation proved to be inadequate only a short while after the inauguration.
This cemetery also has a Dórico Tretrastilo-style temple in the grounds which was built in 1838 and was consecrated in 1891 to the worship of Saint George.
THE HISTORY BEHIND THE BURIALS OF PROTESTANTS IN MALAGA.
Due to the fact that non-Catholic Christians, and others from non-Christian religions were not allowed to be buried in Christian cemeteries, such people and their families had serious problems when they died in Malaga.
Malaga was a very desirable destination for many foreigners from all over the world in the 19th Century, due to its notorious prosperity and its important high seas trade. Therefore, there was quite an important and substantial English community in the city, as well as small pockets of other non-Catholic nationalities.
When a Protestant died, his or her burial depended very much on the influence the family had among the community they were in, as if they were wealthy or not. So if you or your family had some possessions on the outskirts of Malaga, like Alhaurin or Churriana etc., or maybe even friends who were open to letting you use some of their own private burial space, then the dead could rest in peace (although it would have to done when nobody was looking as it was prohibited). Some bodies were buried secretly in the woodland around Malaga and sometimes if it was a sailor the body was covered with a cloth and thrown into the sea with a weight tied to the legs.
If the deceased had not set aside a place for the burial and the authorities had to dispose of the body, as was the case of the many travellers who were passing through Malaga for business or trade, then the bodies were taken to the beach at night and were totally covered with cloth before being buried. They were buried in quite deep holes with their feet first and facing the horizon. They were then covered by sand. However, when there were storms and the sea became very rough it was not uncommon for the bodies to be uncovered by the waves and were then eaten slowly by the carrion-eating vermin.
This inhuman treatment of the bodies of the Protestents came to the attention of the Bristish embasador in Malaga, Mr. Mark Williams, who launched a kind of “crusade” to try to resolve this matter. After a struggle, and thanks to this man’s efforts, the first English Cemetery in Spain was built on the plot of land it occupies today and others were soon to follow in different places in Spain.
Visitors to the cemetery today will appriecate that there are different kinds of burial sites within the grounds. On the one hand there are graves, the oldest of which are covered with sea shells due to the lack of means that the family had at the time of burial. These are called “Corrucos” and are located in the upper part of the grounds, which is the oldest.
Later on other types of burial sites began to appear, more like small maueuleums that spoke of more affluent families burying their dead with more economic means. Nowadays the burials that are allowed are quite simple affairs and less pretencious.
Out of all the graves that are in the Cemetery, due to their importance it is worthwhile mentioning those of Robert Boyd, although it is not known exactly which one is his, and those of the sailors that died in the Gneisena shipwreak just off the coast of Malaga.
Masualeum of the Sailors of Gneisenau
In the month of December 1900 Malaga looked out on the sea in despair as it witnessed the tragic sinking of the German ship the Gneisenau just off the port. It was hit by a very sudden and violent storm and a total of 41 sailors died, including the captain of the ship and 12 heroic men from Malaga who had tried to rescue them. In recognition of the loss of life of the Malaga people, the German government gave Malaga a gift of a bridge which today is known as the “German Bridge”. The words “Very Hospitable City” were also included in the coat of arms of the city, as a result of the manner that the sailors who survived had been taken into houses by local people after the shipwreck. The dead sailors were all buried in the English Cemetery and a tribute made of granite stones, roughly piled one on top of another to simulate a port entrance, was built in commemoration of the tragic accident in which these unfortunate sailors died so far from home.
THE GRAVE OF Robert Boyd
Two graves covered with seashells can be noticed in the most ancient part of the cemetery and one of them has its gravestone carved into the cemetery wall. In one of these two graves lie the remains of Robert Boyd, although it is not known in which.
For many people from Malaga, Robert Boyd is part of the city’s history. He was considered an Irish hero who gave his fortune and even his life to defend the freedom the Spanish were combating for. He fought along with General Torrijos against the absolute power of King Fernando VII and faced a firing squad on the San Andres in Malaga along with 50 other fellow fighters.
THE GRAVE OF Gamel Woolsey
Is it Woolsey or doorsey
Gamel Woolsey was the wife of Gerarld Brenan and they had both settled down on the outskirts of Malaga in a place called Churriana. She was born in North America and she was to go on to write one of the most fascinating books about the happenings during the few days before and the first few days of combat during the horrific Spanish Civil War. She died in 1968. Malaga’s most famous international actor, Antonio Banderas, has a project to turn this lovely novel called “Malaga in flames” into a film.
THE GRAVE OF Gerald Brenan
This Hispanist writer Gerald Brenan first came to Alhaurîn el Grande in 1970 together with Linda Nicholson Price. After several months work on his house in La Cañada de Las Palomas, he settled down into what he came to call the “Garden of Eden”. On 26th March the British writer took up permanent residence in Alhaurin seeking peace and quiet after the loss of his wife Gamel Woolsey.
It is in 1973 that Brenden, with the help of Linda Nicholson, finished his bibliography of “San Juan de la Cruz”. Following on from this he went on to start his last book, “Thoughts in a Dry Season: A Miscellany”, which is a great example of his wisdom and experience of great intensity with which he was accustomed to living his life.
With the publication of his poems in a compilation titled “The Magnectic Moment: Poems”, Brenden saw one of his most desired dreams come true. This collection is completely unedited and was written once he was over 60.
From that moment on his works began to receive a lot of public recognition in Spain. In 1982 Gerald received a tribute in Yegen and in 1983 he was asked to accept the title of “Adopted Son” of Ugijar. He also received a tribute to his name in his hometown of Alhaurin and several cultural ceremonies were organised around his works.
The grave of Jorge GUILLÉN.-
This poet, born in Valladolid in 1893, asked to be allowed to die in Malaga and for his remains to be buried in the garden of this cemetery. His will was respected when he died in 1984.
He studied in Madrid, although he finished off his post-graduate studies in Granada, graduating in 1913. He was the official of Spanish at the SORBONA between 1917 and 1923 and a university professor teaching Spanish Literature and Language at Oxford. During the Spanish Civil War he was taken prisoner but he managed to escape from Spain in 1938 and settled in North America. He taught in several American universities, most notably at Harvard.
Upon the death of Franco he returned to Spain and settled down again. He was given the Cervantes Award in 1976 and his work is still considered today as one of the best examples of pure Spanish poetry.