The Alley of the Dead and the Convent of Poor Life

The Alley of the Dead and the Convent of Poor Life

One of the most hidden alleys, although not far from Toledo Town Hall, is Callejón de los Muertos. Just hearing its name makes your visit unpleasant, much less walking through it on closed nights, although today it is perfectly illuminated and the impact is less. In this alley there was the Municipal Depot of corpses around 1916 and this logically contributed to give name to this singular enclave. An article by Carlos Dueñas Rey. 

The Alley of the Dead and the Convent of Poor Life Church of San Andrés.

Formerly there were no municipal cemeteries as we know them today and therefore where the deceased were buried was in their own parishes, convents or churches in courtyards or other spaces designed and equipped for this purpose. But as Toledo was such a complicated city in its streets and tortuous neighbourhoods, the houses were close to the churches and therefore the coexistence due to the proximity between the living and the dead was something habitual and at that time it was seen as a normal thing. It was the case, very commonly, that the houses attached to the churches had some interior window that would face the courtyard of the church and then cohabitation was something usual in those times.

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Inside the church of San Andrés there is a chapel dedicated to the Virgen de la Paz and from this chapel, through a somewhat inclined door, one can access by means of a staircase a room where dozens of mummies are crammed together, as is the case in San Román or in the neighbouring convent of San Clemente. Today the staircase is illuminated and can be reached without any problem, with respect to that yes. But can you imagine what it had to be when in another time there was no electricity and it was necessary to access where the mummies were with a candle lit? I think that going down the stairs little by little with the dim light of the candle to find the spectacle of the mummies (that sometimes their skeletons only covered by a smooth and hard skin) and the skulls seems as if in their expression -the most times of pain- they hid a mocking smile, it is a unique spectacle.

The Alley of the Dead and the Convent of Poor Life Mummies from the Church of San Andrés, in Toledo.

Current photo of the mummies under the Church of San Andrés. (see more photos)