Pere Lachaise is one of several cemeteries in Paris and I imagine, the most well known and frequently visited. This was apparently not always the case ! In its early days in the 1800’s the cemetery actually advertised for prospective clients and such famous names as poet La Fontaine and doomed lovers and writers Heloise & Aberlard were reburied here with much publicity to attract potential residents. Soon everyone who was anyone were clamouring to be buried at Pere Lachaise.
You might think it strange that I chose to visit a graveyard on my trip to Paris , but I was intrigued by Pere lachaise’s list of ‘celebrity’ residents. So many distinguished names from the worlds of science,arts and literature reside here. Frederich Chopin, Moliere, Edith Piaf & Jim Morrison , to name but a few. There are maps at the entrances to show you where they can all be found. It is also a beautiful and peaceful space to come if you wish to get away from the hustle & bustle of the French Capital. Elaborate mausoleums and tombstones decorate the graves in this vast cemetery.
The cemetery is also home to a number of monuments and memorials dedicated to victims of war and conflict. I did not photograph any as I guess it felt a little insensitive. But if you visit they are well worth a look, if only to reflect on how cruel and unjust human beings can be to one another.The memorials to the holocaust are particularly moving.
Because Pere Lachaise is so huge and I imagine quite easy to get lost in, I did not find every grave I was looking for. It is possible to buy a site map near the main entrance apparently. We took a photo of a map near the entrance we came in ( opposite the Pere Lachaise metro link) but still got confused. The best thing to do we found was look out for clusters of people ( live ones 😉 gathered round certain graves. This usually meant someone of note was buried there. We also noticed a tour guide ( who seemed quite a character ! ) , taking some American tourists round. Sometimes we literally stumbled on interesting tombs….but there was a lot of the cemetery we did not manage to cover.
If you ever visit , watch out for the graveyards other residents. Pere Lachaise is home to several cats who have regularly been sighted weaving in and out of the grave stones. Unfortunately we didn’t catch a glimpse of any ~ not even near the grave of Colette, a French novelist and renowned cat lover.
Maybe the most visited grave is that of the Doors frontman Jim Morrison who died aged 27 from a suspected drug overdose in Paris in 1971. His headstone has been vandalised many times and is usually guarded. Near where he is buried there is a tree covered in chewing gum ~ a bizarre tribute to this rock star legend.
We also came across the tombstone of Irish writer and play write Oscar Wilde who died in Paris. The unusual design is shielded by a glass barrier to protect it from ‘kisses’. Years of admirer’s lipsticked kisses had apparently started to degrade the stone and the glass was added in 2011. X
Our visit was certainly interesting and thought provoking. A hauntingly beautiful place that is full of history, art, nature and atmosphere. A must if you visit Paris.