'El Petó de la Mort' ('The Kiss of Death') – Barcelona, Spain - Atlas Obscura

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'El Petó de la Mort' ('The Kiss of Death')

Poblenou Cemetery

A cemetery in Barcelona's Poblenou district is home to this touching funerary statue, which depicts death in the form of a winged skeleton. 


The Poblenou Cemetery, also known as Cementiri de l’Est (East Cemetery), was the first to be built outside the walls in medieval Barcelona after the parish graves were dismantled. Today, designed in 1819 by the Italian architect Antonio Ginesi after the Napoleonic troops destroyed the old cemetery, falls inside the city borders.

Alongside the typical guardian angels and other funerary sculptures adorning the mausoleum in the pantheons section is a sculpture called The Kiss of Death. It stands out for its expressiveness and sense of the macabre: a winged skeleton takes the life of a young male body by means of an allegorical kiss. The artwork reveals us to the one to whom it pays homage: the teenage son of a textile industrialist who died a premature death. The romantic but terrifying sculpture has been attributed to Jaume Barba, although others attribute the authorship to another sculptor: Joan Fontbernat.

The most popular guest in the cemetery is not precisely among the lavish mausoleums but among the modest niches. Francesc Canal died in 1899 at the age of 22 foreshadowing his own death. After his death, a rumor spread that whoever made a wish in front of his niche would succeed. By popular will, was turned into El Santet (young saint in Catalan) and his tomb was miraculous. More than a century later, the supernatural nature of this tomb still lasts. The niches that surround it enclose a voluminous gathering of flowers, candles, votive offerings, figures, kitsch images, and more. The slab has been protected with a glass and a slot allows to deposit the notes with the requests of the visitors.

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