Cimetière du Père-Lachaise

Cimetière du Père-Lachaise (85)

It is unusual for a cemetery to be a tourist attraction but this one provides many corners with history. Among the more than 300,000 guests accommodated here, there are several famous names that have their final resting place. Between the avenues of chestnut trees, chapels, sculptures and poetic or curious epitaphs, it is possible to trace the history of Paris through its illustrious inhabitants.

Alexandre Brongniart wanted to design a cemetery in the style of an English garden, with a romantic spirit and open to the public for walking. With the transfer of the hypothetical remains of Molière and La Fontaine, the Père Lachaise cemetery became the fashionable spot for funerals of Paris’s elite.

Wandering among its tombs it is possible to find those of great names in the arts, literature, politics and science. Here lie together the couple made up of the singer and actor Yves Montand and the actress Simone Signoret. 

Two of the most-visited tombs are those, firstly, of Oscar Wilde, buried here in 1900. The monument of this great English playwright was sculpted by Jacob Epstein. And it is nearly always covered with kisses in red lipstick from his admirers, something that has led the authorities to ask a cosmetics company to pay for the cleaning of the tomb.

The other tomb that receives most fans and which also provides headaches for the cemetery is that of the rock star Jim Morrison. They even had to post a security guard after several fans took drugs and made love on his tomb.

Another tomb that arouses passions, above all among women, is that of Victor Noir, pseudonym of the journalist Yvan Salman, assassinated from a gunshot at the age of 22 by Napoleon III’s great-nephew, Pierre Bonaparte. Why does he have so many fans? Because the legend goes that if you caress the groin of the life-size bronze figure of Mister Noir, you will soon become pregnant.

Wandering around you will also find the writers Marcel Proust and Balzac, the singer Edith Piaf, the actress Sarah Bernhardt, the painters Pissaro, Seurat, Modigliani, the dancer Isadora Duncan and the famous spiritualist Allan Kardec. 

It is worth losing yourself among its quiet avenues to appreciate the sculptures that adorn some tombs such as that of the musician Chopin, of the Napoleonic general Gobert or the painter Delacroix, or that of another painter, Théodore Géricault, whose tomb illustrates his masterpiece: The Raft of Medusa, and the unfortunate 12th century lovers Abelard and Eloise.

Great artists such as Etex, David d’Angers, Bartholdi, Landowski and Leducq produced works to ornament some tombs in the cemetery.

Some monuments are particularly curious, such as the imposing twenty-metre high chimney by Félix de Beaujour, which houses two funerary chambers. Or the tomb of the poet George Rodenbach which depicts him leaving his tomb with his arm held out and a rose in his hand.

We recommend you go and see the Ossuary. At the entrance you will find a delightful relief by the sculptor Bartholomé from 1895 which represents the suffering felt by the living when their loved-ones pass away. 

Do not think you will be on your own walking around this place, since every year some 2 million people visit it, making it the most-visited cemetery in the world.

There are even guided visits on Saturdays, if you cannot do it with a free map of the area with the most famous tombs marked.

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