Don’t berate this vault by its unremarkable design. Many times simple means older… as proof, this is listed as a National Historic Monument. Clues to the identity of the most famous family member buried here are along the side:
Apart from serving as the head of government on behalf of Juan Martín de Pueyrredón as the last battles were being fought against Spain in 1816, the tombstone provides further information about his character:
Here lies Sir Francisco Antonio de Escalada, who served his nation in the most serious & honorific duties. He solemnly proclaimed its independence & deserved the love & respect of his fellow patriots for his righteousness, unselfishness & religious nature, passing away at 86 years of age on December 7, 1835. His son accompanies him, Coronel José María de Escalada, who died December 14, 1839 at 52 years of age.
The last name may sound familiar to some, but according to the fantastic resource Geneología Familiar Francisco Antonio was not directly related to the wife of José de San Martín. For anyone interested in the relations between all the early, upper-class families of Argentina, the above link will be fascinating.
The latest edition of The Rough Guide to Argentina (published January 2008) mentions the cemetery map… & me:
Update (Jan 2010): The map is no longer available, but a much more in-depth & informative PDF is for sale. It’s much better… trust me 🙂
Urns are typically associated with cremation. But as a Catholic cemetery for most of its history, cremation was prohibited or discouraged by church officials. During the last 50 years, rules have been relaxed in part due to high expenses incurred from traditional burial services. Cremation has become more common, but traditional Catholics would still frown at the idea.
Remember that vaults in Recoleta Cemetery are meant to be used by families over successive generations. As the earthly remains of past generations decay over time, they can be transferred to smaller containers to make room for current family members. Although it may seem a bit gruesome, there’s no need to keep an entire casket when there are only ashes inside. Just as many caskets are traditionally draped with a cloth or shroud, so are urns.
As a decorative motif, draped urns can be found in special niches:
Or decorating the corners of family vaults:
Urns may be accompanied by an image of a woman in mourning:
They are even prominently displayed at the service entrance & on the main gate:
And as Lisandro mentioned in the comments below: “Often but not always, Christian communities during Lent use a cross with a cloth draped over its arms. This cloth is associated with the shroud of Christ left in the tomb after resurrection, & for that reason it is considered a sign of life & hope.”