Halloween: 5 historic places that were cemeteries in Cartagena

Cartagena de Indias is a beautiful city, full of great landscapes, colonial houses and a lot of history in each of its places. Among these places stand out mystery stories that tell how many places that were or are tourist attractions of the city, once housed the bodies of thousands of people who have died in the most diverse ways.

We present to you the 5 best places that were once cemeteries in Cartagena de Indias:

Three cemeteries in one

Before the arrival of the Spaniards in America, the center of Cartagena was inhabited by the Kalamarí Indians. Around the 1500s, with the arrival of the Spaniards, the place which is known today as the Caribbean Naval Museum, was a school of the Company of Jesus, the Jesuits.

The college building was built in the Spanish colonial style from 1607 to 1617 and operated as such until 1840 when the cholera pandemic hit Cartagena and the Jesuit College had to be converted into a public hospital to cope with the health calamity that the city was experiencing. .

San Juan de Dios Hospital was designed to care for the most needy people who suffered from cholera and had no means of seeking treatment. This disease wiped out a third of the city’s population, but the poor who died had no money to be buried in the common cemetery in the San Diego neighborhood, so they were thrown into the mass grave. of the hospital, located in the courtyard of the hospital.

Visitors to the Naval Museum claim to have smelled and seen spirits in the corridors of the colonial building. Even legends among the workers mention a skeletal hand coming out of the cobblestones of the courtyard (where the hospital’s mass grave once stood) and grabbing the ankles of people walking there.

One of the most recent paranormal experiences was given by an Ecuadorian couple visiting the hospital in the middle of a heavy downpour. While waiting for the rain to fall to continue their tour of the city, they noticed a ray of light passing through one of the sculptures in the main hall, they took a photo to remember this majestic moment and when they saw it they noticed a person located in the middle of the model. A man with the appearance of a Jesuit monk, with a long black robe and a candle in his hand stood beside the tower which was struck by the sun. No one else has ever been able to see this mysterious character in any other photo.

Children buried

At the time of the Spanish conquest, between what is today called the Church of the Third Order and the former cinemas of the Theater of Cartagena, was the Convent of San Francisco, a solemn place that for many many years had in its yard a cemetery of Spanish children and young people.

In 1555, it was the King of Spain who authorized the monks to formally settle in Cartagena and, moreover, indicated to them where they could build their cloister. So, when Cartagena was 22 years old, the construction of the Convent of San Francisco began.

464 years later, in 2019, new work began to convert the land that was once the Convent and later the Theater of Cartagena into a grand hotel.

In the middle of the work, a group of archaeologists discovered around 600 skeletons of children in the old courtyard of the convent.

This discovery was due to a custom of the time when the bodies of believers were to be buried near the altar so that their souls could “rest in peace”. The Spaniards believed that if they rested inside the temple, the dead would be closer to God on the day of resurrection.

The crypt of the nuns

The former cloister of the Poor Clare Sisters of Cartagena was built in 1621, after the arrival of three Italian sisters in the city to begin convent life. It is said that during the 240 years of operation of the convent, around 280 nuns lived there.

After being abandoned by the Poor Clares, the property became a rat’s nest in the city, since no one took care of its upkeep like the convent did.

In view of this situation, the place fell under a law known as the “Dead Hands Expropriation Law”, which stipulated that these places were not on the market to be acquired by civilians, so ultimately the building passed into the hands of the State which decided to transform it into a hospital of Santa Clara, in order to serve the poorest patients of the city.

When the expedition was made for the restructuring of the convent into a hospital, they discovered that in the room next to the chapel there was a crypt with the corpses of the deceased nuns inside the convent.

The crypt was where the deceased nuns were buried. The Poor Clares were active and healthy women, so it is said that the corpses must have belonged to elderly women, mostly between 80 and 90 years old.

Currently, the crypt of the Poor Clares is open to the public from 3 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. at the El Coro bar of the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara hotel. At dusk each day, the ritual of candles is celebrated, when the hotel butlers dress in monks’ robes and walk the halls lighting all the candles until they reach the crypt, where each night. they light an altar in memory of the poor Claire Sisters who died there.

The body of the slave of blacks

Saint Pedro Claver was a Spanish missionary and priest who arrived in Cartagena in 1610, where he dedicated his life to alleviating the suffering of black slaves who arrived to be sold in the city’s port.

At the time, it was believed that black people had no soul, but Pedro Claver worked until his last day of life to give them a better life outside of the Spanish families who enslaved them. For this reason, this man was sanctified and declared a “defender” of slaves in 1985.

Currently, the body of Saint-Pierre Claver is located in the main altar of the Church of Saint-Pierre Claver in Cartagena de Indias. An open space where all visitors can observe the remains of the slave of the slaves.

College with corpses

The former Colegio de la Presentación was one of the best Catholic schools in the city of Cartagena which had to close in 2014 due to a severe financial crisis.

The school house, located in the fortified center, is a museum where the courses of the Universidad Autónoma de Nariño are now held.

Like many other Catholic schools, it is said that the presentation was also a cemetery since throughout history the nuns have been buried in the house where they lived closer to God.

In this large house, which in colonial times was in turn the residence of the viceroy, is also the Pozo de Noria, from which still flows pure water, and of which, according to several local workers, the well served as an escape tunnel in wartime. and can lead directly to the island of Tierra Bomba.


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Patrick F. Williams

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