Post Mortem Chapel – Oaxaca, Mexico - Atlas Obscura

Post Mortem Chapel

The ruins of an abandoned church mingle with the graves at Oaxaca’s General Cemetery. 


Hidden within Oaxaca’s General Cemetery are the remains of the Post Mortem Chapel. The structure was commissioned in 1835, but because of ongoing political conflicts, it was never finished.

There were attempts to complete the sanctuary’s construction, but the municipality finally gave up after the French Intervention of 1865. That year, the building’s plans and the model of the project were lost. Today, it remains an unfinished ruin, and no one is sure what it was meant to look like. 

The church’s main arch was nearly destroyed by a 2017 earthquake. Although the abandoned building’s walls are enormous, they remain obscured by trees and graves. There’s an empty tomb in the center of the ruins, guarded by a cross and accompanied by an inscription that reads “a flower for the forgotten dead.” People leave flowers and light candles at the tomb in honor of the cemetery’s dead who no longer receive visitors. 

Know Before You Go

A few steps from the chapel is the empty niche where Macedonio Alcalá was once buried. On his deathbed, he composed the waltz "God Never Dies," one of the most popular songs of the Day of the Dead in Mexico. Today, his remains are lost forever, just like the chapel project.

The cemetery opens at 7 a.m. The best time to visit the cemetery is the night of the Day of the Dead, when the cemetery and niches are only lit with candles and flowers. 

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