The Mausoleum of General San Martín in the Cathedral of the City of Buenos Aires began its history in 1864. During the presidency of Bartolomé Mitre, two national deputies, Martín Ruiz Moreno and Adolfo Alsina, submitted a bill to carry out the repatriation of the embalmed remains of San Martín. They rested in one of the chapels of the Basilica Notre-Dame de Boulogne Sur Mer. The bill, which became law, said:
“ the Executive shall immediately carry out such steps as may be necessary to transfer the remains of the benemeritus general José de San Martín from the Argentine Republic”
But only on April 11, 1877, then President Nicolás Avellaneda signed the decree creating a Commission to repatriate the remains of the procerer. It was chaired by Mariano Acosta, vice-president of the Nation. He was then Archbishop Leon Federico Aneiros.
The commission, with the signature of José Prudencio Guerrico, asked the prelate for the chapel, already unused, which had served in other times of baptistery. The project was to erect an altar to Santa Rosa de Lima and a mausoleum on the south front. This was reported by the archbishop, who immediately passed the note to the chapter.
Where do we place the mausoleum?
In the first instance there was an opposition from the clergy, backed by the Roman apostolic canons:
“ Saint Martin was a Freemason, and as such he could not be accommodated in a consecrated place”
This discussion came from a long time. It arises with the primitive clashes between Freemasonry and Catholics. The main milestone was the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Rio de la Plata. However, they reached an agreement. The commission added to the original project an additional budget for restoration work in the temple. The Secular Cabildo nodded then pleased:
“ looking as one of the preeminences and glories of the Metropolitan Church to be the repository of the remains of such an illustrious man.”
The following year there was a change in the project. Instead of the baptistery, the commission requested that the Mausoleum be in the chapel of Our Lady of Peace. These comings and goings caused the return to be delayed and it was only on May 28, 1880, aboard the ARA Villarino Transport (completed construction that year in England), that the remains of the Liberator of America arrived.
A carriage pulled by six black percherones carried the coffin. It was covered by the flag of the Army of the Andes. Also two crowns: one with Yapeyú palms and another with segments of San Lorenzo pine. It was taken from the port of Retiro to the Cathedral. There was a funeral office for the eternal rest of his soul. Then they were placed in the Crypt for a while until he put it in the mausoleum. Also accompanied the funeral service the 7 soldiers who lived in the Libertadora campaign, so today they are changing the guard the same number of grenadiers
According to historian Omar Uanini, the remains, by French health standards, had been deposited in “three coffins, one of lead, one oak and the third of fir. When the remains arrive in Montevideo a quarter is added to it, because the third was very deteriorated.” Finally, as requested by the Church, the head of the caisson was placed tilted, as a symbol of the predestination to hell with which the Masons carry.