I spent a lazy afternoon wandering through the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris last weekend. Sprawling across 110 acres, the cemetery is the largest in Paris, with more than a million bodies buried there.
Opened in 1804 by Napoleon, the cemetery was not a very popular burial ground back in the day. Parisians considered it too far from the city and the Roman Catholics refused to be buried on unconsecrated ground. Desperate to boost “sales”, the managers arranged to have the remains of famous French personalities like La Fontaine and Moliere moved there. The bodies of Pierre Abelard and Heloise were subsequently transferred in 1817. The strategy worked as more and more people wanted to be buried with the famous.
Today, the cemetery houses such internationally renown personages as Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, and more.
Clockwise from top left: Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Chopin
The Pere Lachaise cemetery is a veritable necropolis, a true city of the dead. There are wide tree-lined boulevards, complete with road signs; there are statues for decorations; and there are, of course, doors to keep the unwanted out.
Portals at Pere Lachaise
A tree-lined boulevard
You may even come across a faithful companion.
A cemetery may seem like an odd tourist destination in Gay Paris. But with its famous residents, it’s not surprising to find that Pere Lachaise is one of the most visited cemeteries in the world. If you need some peace and quiet, if you need to pause for a breath before diving back into the whirlwind of Paris, the Pere Lachaise cemetery is a great place to visit.