Before 1831, the Protestants in Malaga weren’t accepted in the Cemetery and were buried at sea. This changed thanks to the construction of the English Cemetery of Malaga
It´s a well known fact that Spain is a culturally Catholic country. You might remember learning about the Catholic Monarchs (Ferdinand and Isabel) who sent Columbus across the ocean blue in 1492 to discover America? But what happened when a non-Catholic died in Spain´s Costa del Sol? If you were a protestant in Malaga, where would your body be lain to rest? Up until the year 1831 the answer to this question was the sea. It just so happens that the bodies of non-Roman Catholics were not allowed to be buried by day, and were taken to the seashore at night by torchlight and buried in the sand being left to the mercy of the waves and the dogs.
In the year 1824, however, William Mark took over the British Consulship in Malaga and decided to change this inhumane practice. He obtained a plot of land at the edge of town in order to construct the “English Cemetery of Malaga” where Protestants could be buried. The cemetery came to fruition in the year 1831 and the first to be buried there was a man by the name of Robert Boyd who was actually executed in Malaga for taking part in a liberal uprising in December of 1831 along with Cánovas del Castillo. All the men who accompanied General Cánovas were buried in the Plaza de la Merced, however Robert, because he was Anglican, was buried at sea. William Mark took it upon himself to rescue the body and hide it in the cemetery where it would never be found.
When we arrived to the English Cemetery of Malaga, it was a sunny morning, and the sun seemed to invite us to explore the old grave sites. It was a place that invited you to imagine any number of stories or poems. In fact, on the back wall of the Inner Cemetery, there is a poem by the poet from Malaga, María Victoria Atencia called “ Epitafio para una muchacha” (Epitaph for a girl). There is something about the way the sun rays fall on the tombstones and stone crosses overgrown with vibrantly green plants and moss that highlights the precarious relationship between life and death that we experience on a daily basis.
As you walk through theEnglish Cemetery of Malaga the first part you will come to is the section of Roman Catholic graves. Ironic, but true. Although the English Cemetery in Malaga was constructed due to the fact that the Catholic cemetery wouldn’t accept Protestants, the English cemetery turned the other cheek and made room for the Catholics. Here you will find the grave of Dr. Joseph Noble, who died suddenly of cholera in 1861 during a visit to Malaga. Does the Hospital Noble ring any bells? The name doesn’t come from the fact that it was a hospital for the upper class. It was founded with the inheritance of Joseph Noble, who died of cholera. In fact, the hospital took in many people who were sick and didn’t have much money. This is ironic since most people from Malaga have no idea.
As you continue down the path you will come to a strange building constructed out of red stone with four columns in the entrance way. This is St. George´s Anglican Church which is still functioning in Malaga, however it was originally meant to be a sort of ornamental “lodge temple.” Once you know this, the structure makes a bit more sense because it didn’t resemble any kind of church I had ever seen.
At this point in our visit to the Malaga’s English Cemetery we had to turn around in order to access the original cemetery where the first bodies were buried. Along the path we saw a monument and tomb of 42 officers and brother of the German Imperial Marines who died in the shipwreck of the Gneisenau, which sunk in the bay of Malaga on December 16, 1900. Luckily there were only 42 casualities thanks to the rescue by the Malaga marines. The 42 victims were buried in the English Cemetery of Malaga. To thank Malaga, the Germans gave the city the German Bridge, as well as leaving the original shield from the boat on the monument in the English Cemetery of Málaga.
The Inner Cemetery of the English Cemetery of Malaga was bordered by a stone wall and had a wrought iron gate at the entrance. As we walked inside this area of the English Cemetery the first thing that caught my eye were the graves covered in sea shells. Apparently this was done in order to decorate the graves when there was not much money for elaborate tombstones or stone crosses. The people looked for natural items, and since Malaga is on the coast, seashells were abundant and it became an easy way to decorate the graves. The lower part was dedicated to those who made their living at sea and the upper part those who worked on the land, including those children who died during the cholera epidemic.
After seeing this area we walked around behind the wall and found some graves that were almost hidden. It made me think about how sad it is for the families of those buried in the English Cemetery of Malaga both for the fact that they are buried so far from home, as well as for the fact that no one has the money or the will to maintain the graves. Some of the tombstones were so overgrown with weeds that you had to push back branches in order to stand in front of the tombs.
On our way out, we stopped at the Gatehouse, which is also a small shop which had consignment items and postcards of the church. Here you can also find artesanal items made by Malaga artists. It was, in fact, very similar to any shop you might find in a church rectory. There we spoke with the man at the till who told us that the English Cemetery of Malaga is still functioning and permits cremated remains, but burials are no longer allowed. For all intents and purposes, the English Cemetery of Malaga is run on private donations, which is quite a shame because the current grave sites are maintained less and less over the years.
Although we ruskommend that you visit the English Cemetery of Malaga for the first time during the day to enjoy the charm and essence of the place, the guided visits at night are very interesting. The visit becomes a theatrical show with the light of the moon and candles. Ms. Marjorie Grice-Hutchinson, Robert Boyd and the cemetery’s founder, William Mark take you through the English Cemetery of Malaga where, in addition to enjoying the theatrical representation, we also learned a lot about the cemetery itself, and our city of Malaga. You can see when these events take place on the events page of their website. We Ruskommend the English Cemetery of Malaga with 5 boquerons for visitors and people from Malaga alike.
Information about The English Cemetery of Malaga
Ruskommendation for The English Cemetery of Malaga: 5 boquerones
- Address: Av. Príes, 1, 29016 Malaga, Spain
- Telephone: +34 952 22 35 52
- Prices: General 3 euros; Visitors aged over 65, Students aged under 26, Groups over 10 people, Visitors aged under 18 2 euros; Family, All persons attending religious services, meeetings, or other events organised by the Anglican Chaplaincy of St George, Children under 12 Free
- Hours: (Tue-Sun) 10:00am-2:00pm
- Public Transportation: Buses #3,11,32,33,34,35 up to Paseo Reading – P. Miramar
- Official Website