Since 1849, the Cemetery of the illustrious has been an important part of San Salvador’s history. Within its premises there are over 400 tombs, the resting place to some of El Salvador’s most prominent families and famous personalities.
The cemetery is of great historical and artistic value and could be considered as an “open air museum” due to the quality and materials of the mausoleums, most of them with carved marble statues brought from Europe or made locally by masterful artisans.
According to historical records, under the administration of President Rafael Zaldivar (1876 – 1884), the cemetery became known as the “The Illustrious” after a second, and more impressive mausoleum was erected in honor of Francisco Morazán, a famous president and general who fought for the ideal of uniting the Central American countries into a single Federation.
This place was also called “The Pantheon of Great Men” by a legislative decree in 1913, after the funeral of President Manuel Enrique Araujo.
Located in what was once an exclusive area of the capital, the Cemetery of the Illustrious has the remains of former presidents like: Gerardo Barrios, Manuel Enrique Araujo, Isidro Menéndez and Francisco Morazan.
Many distinguished artists and writers are also buried here; among them: Salarrué , Arturo Ambrogi, Claudia Lars and Alfredo Espino; the famous Paraguayan musician Agustin Barrios Mangoré also rests in “The Illustrious”.
Iconic contemporary political figures buried in this cemetery include revolutionary leader Farabundo Martí; the founder of the Nationalist Republican Alliance in El Salvador (ARENA), Roberto d’Aubuisson; the leader of the Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional (FMLN), Shafik Handal .
This cemetery is open to the public and walking along its trails you will get to appreciatethe beauty of the white marble sculptures with great artistic value and mausoleums that keep the remains of wealthy families. It is said that many of the works were ordered from abroad, particularly from Genoa in Italy.
In this cemetery there are a variety of religious figures in different poses, some of them of large proportions and with unusual characteristics that indicate the status of the family or the deceased’s living history. Many of them have become part of the landscape and popular memory.
The cemetery also harbors mythical figures, among them “Luperce” better known as “The Wolf”, suckling Romulus and Remus. This mausoleum is for the Italian Assitenza.
You will also find “The Bride”, a sculpture in honor of the Lydia S. Glass Lopez (deceased in 1924). There are stories about her apparitions at the site and conflicting versions of her death, one of them is that she died just as she was about to get married and other versions say it happened afterwards.
Other interesting tombs are “The Plane”, resting place of Italian pilot Enrico Massi, who died in 1923 and “The Bike” the actual bike where J. Francisco Sandoval died in 1948.
Other graves of historical figures buried in this cemetery:
• Pío Romero Bosque
• Benjamin Bloom
• Alberto Masferrer
• José Rosales (founder of the public hospital of the same name)
It was not until 2009 that the Municipality of San Salvador issued an order declaring this cemetery as a “Protected Zone” and it is now guarded by Metropolitan Police Agents (CAM). In addition, the Jewish community cemetery is just across the street. La Bermeja Cemetery is the resting place for more popular sectors of the population.
These days, the Tourist Police, POLITUR, provides a monthly night tour, which is of particular interest as it is guided by leading Salvadoran historians. Simply request this service one week in advance.
Address: 7th Avenue and 12th West Street.
You can enter the Cemetery of the Illustrious through the gates next to the Central Market. You may park your car within the premises at no cost.
– To request a tour, contact POLITUR (503) 2511-8300 or (503) 2511-8302 Monday to Friday (business hours) 8:00 am to 5:00 p.m.