History lesson at La Carriona cemetery in Avilés

A unique cultural offer promoted by the Área de Promoción Social y Cultura del Ayuntamiento de Avilés.
A unique cultural offer promoted by the Área de Promoción Social y Cultura del Ayuntamiento de Avilés.

Interpretation centre (CICLAC)

Due to its artistic heritage the cemetery of La Carriona it’s part of the European Cemeteries Route, as well as a member of ASCE (Association of Significant Cemeteries in Europe).

The cemetery is basically an open-air museum, and that’s what motivated the City Council of Avilés to open an interpretation centre in October 2012, the so called CICLAC (Centro de Interpretación del Cementerio de La Carriona). One of the first European and Spanish initiatives on that matter. It is located in the former houses of the janitor and chaplain of the cemetery, as a part of the whole lot that was inaugurated in 1890 according to the scheme carried out by the architect Ricardo Marcos Bausá.

Cemetery as space of art and place of memory

The visit to this open-air museum is aimed at showing the history of the city in which the cemetery is set, considering both the city and its cemetery share a common past.

As a result, the historical background of the 19th century Avilés, along with the previous cemeteries and the erection of the new one in La Carriona is to be explained. First and foremost we focus on the reason of its placement, the constructive system and the artistic trends of the time, including the reasons that led many people – most of them related to the American migration – to build this magnificent funerary monuments.

However, not everything is art. Rather than that, along with the artistic and historical tour also lies an alternative one entitled place of memory (lugar de memoria), a tour that conveys the story of those people which had contributed to the developing of the city through different scopes (sports, music, literature, arts…) and who are buried in more humble yet remarkable burial places. A brief biographical notice helps us not let them fall into oblivion. Both tours are included in the museographic and museological desings as well as in the brochures we offer.

The tour around the interpretation centre ends with a reminder of the previous cemeteries of Aviles and a replica of the plan of the historical section of La Carriona. It involves the explanation of the 19th century hierarchy, utterly and perfectly reproduced in the cemetery’s constructive design. The city of the dead has its own main and secondary avenues, catholic and civil spaces, etc.

The tour of the cemetery takes place afterwards. Visitors may choose between guided tours or wandering freely about the place. If so, brochures provide detailed information about both routes: space of art and place of memory.

Tours for scholars

Our tours are specially intended for scholars. At the beginning of each school year we send information and invitations to all the schools set in the district, and to those over the region of Asturias that teach Educación Secundaria and Bachillerato (12-18 years old), encouraging them to visit the CICLAC and the cemetery.

Each year we host between 10 and 15 groups including ones of Special Education such as Fundación Vinjoy of Oviedo, who visit us regularly.

Visits are adapted to different educational levels and revolve around four key aspects:

  • The historical context of 19th century Avilés as well as its previous medieval and modern stages.
  • The location and characteristics of the cemetery.
  • The heritage it holds and the main artists that built it.
  • An explanation of the social and religious differences of that time and how they affected the arrangement of the cemetery, something scholars normally find really shocking.

A unique cultural and touristic offer

The main goals we pursue trough those activities are as follow:

  • To spread the artistic and monumental value of a place that remains unfamiliar for most of the locals. Due to its rich and well preserved monumental heritage the old town of Avilés was declared in 1955 Bien de Interés Cultural (Heritage of Cultural Interest). The cemetery, on the contrary, hasn’t been considered with such esteem despite treasuring some of the most significant funerary art of Europe.
  • To approach the city history through an alternative touristic offer. We seek to raise awareness of the importance of creating new paths that are environmentally respectful, appealing to the eye and of great cultural interest.

Not only have we accomplished our marks since we started our venture almost seven years ago, but we have also hosted more than 25.000 visits, including concerts and theatrical functions. Furthermore, we hold several awards in different contests nationwide and for that we are grateful. As a result we truly feel determined to keep on enhancing our activities. A unique cultural offer promoted by the Área de Promoción Social y Cultura del Ayuntamiento de Avilés.