|Q: Why is the British Cemetery at Bahia a site
of cultural and historic importance?
A: It is both historically and architecturally
important because it is a typical Anglican-influenced construction in a
Catholic country, Bahia’s first Protestant cemetery and one of the first
open-air graveyards built in Brazil. The history of the presence of Britons
and the British Cemetery in Bahia is also part of broader political, social,
artistic and cultural contexts, particularly after Brazilian ports were
opened to friendly nations in 1808, and during the “major works” period
(1820-1920) characterised by changes that were fundamental to the City
of Salvador’s development. The cemetery also contains tombs that are both
artistically and historically significant.
|Q: How long has Britain been present in Brazil?
A: British explorers, adventurers and privateers
have been part of Brazilian history since its beginnings. Despite Portugal's
claim to the territory after Cabral officially discovered "the Island of
Santa Cruz" in 1500, British smugglers continued to barter with Amerindians
for brazilwood - a valuable commodity at the time. In 1688, after nearly
four decades of negotiations hampered by regime changes in England
(Charles I, Cromwell and Charles II) and papal objections to Protestant
British merchants' demand for freedom of religion in Catholic Portugal's
territory, a treaty allowed a limited number of Britons called "resident
merchants" to live and trade in Brazil (Bahia, Pernambuco and Rio).
[Alan K. Manchester, British
Preëminence in Brazil]
|Q: Why build a British Cemetery in Bahia?
A: The cemetery was constructed in the
early nineteenth century, when most Brazilians were buried in Catholic
churches. Since Catholic priests would not perform marriages or funerals
for Protestants, the Anglicans needed a place of their own to bury their
|Q: How many British cemeteries are there in
A: According to Gilberto Freyre's Ingleses
no Brasil, after 1808, British communities established cemeteries in
at least 6 places - Belém and São Luís in the north,
Recife and Bahia in the Northeast, and the Imperial Brazilian Mining Company's
Gongo Soco gold mine (Minas Gerais) and Rio de Janeiro in the Southeast.
Today, the only known British cemeteries remaining in Brazil are those
in Recife, Bahia and Rio, which has the oldest of the three, established
in 1811. The ruins of the other three mentioned by Freyre can still be
found, usually in isolated, hard-to-reach areas, and there may be even
more in other parts of this vast country.
|Q: Are Anglican Britons the only people buried
in the British Cemetery at Bahia?
A: No, the people interred there also include
the spouses and children of Britons, Jews of several nationalities, Americans
and other foreigners. A Japanese naval officer committed suicide aboard
a British ship and was buried there in 1869, but his gravesite could not
be found when his countrymen arrived in Bahia to honour him.
|Q: Why build a graveyard in one of Salvador’s
most elegant districts?
A: When the cemetery was built in the early
nineteenth century, it was outside the city limits. Today it forms part
of a historical and cultural corridor that includes Fort São Diogo,
the Santo Antonio da Barra Church and the mansions in Corredor da Vitória
– several being the former homes of British merchants. An Anglican priest,
the Reverend Edward Parker, was also a builder who developed a large swath
of the Campo Grande area and built Ladeira da Barra along its present-day
route, replacing the steep track that used to connect the Port of Barra
and the surrounding area.
|Q: Is anyone important buried in the cemetery?
A: The tombs of several illustrious personages
can be found there, including Dr John
Ligertwood Paterson, one of the three founders of the Bahia School
of Tropical Medicine, and Edward Pellew
Wilson, who founded a shipping firm called Wilson, Sons. He was also
one of the first residents – perhaps the first – of the mansion on Campo
Grande square that later became the residence of Brazil’s cardinals and
|Q: Has the cemetery been deactivated?
A: No. The last burial took place in 1999,
but others could be performed there in the future, once the restoration
project has been completed.
|Q: Why don’t they knock down the cemetery’s
outer wall so people can look in from the street?
A: First, because the wall has always been
an integral part of the cemetery and the restorers want to preserve the
site’s original characteristics. There are also several tablets
set into the wall to commemorate people who were not buried in the cemetery,
such as the “English gentlemen” who died of yellow fever during the construction
of the Bahia and San Francisco Railway. Finally, a number of tombs abut
onto the wall.
our blog for news of the revitalisation project
[ back to main page