It’s no secret that I adore a good cemetery and if there’s one at my destination, I’m going to go out of my way to check it out. It’s been 16 years since we’ve visited Paris for our honeymoon (as part of a larger London trip) and strolled through Père Lachaise Cemetery. It’s the largest cemetery in Paris and is the final resting place of famous people like Gertrude Stein, Oscar Wilde, and Jim Morrison.
The cemetery is so large that you can get a map, as it also has streets with names to find your way around. Many of the tombs are large family tombs that are ornate and have their own space for familial visitors to pay their respects. Many have stained glass and other embellishments that make them unique and beautiful.
Oddly, every day of vacation was sunny and warm, except for the morning we visited the cemetery, where it was overcast and rainy. Perfect tomb-viewing weather in my opinion.
Père Lachaise opened in 1804, as a solution to all the Paris cemeteries being full. Unfortunately, it was situated too far from the city and also wasn’t blessed by the church, so many people refused burial there. To combat this problem, two prominent French poets’ remains were moved to Père Lachaise. This proved to do the trick and it became more and more popular to bury your loved ones there. In fact, it has been expanded 5 times since it first opened.
Over the years, Paris grew larger until Père Lachaise was situated well within the city, along with the other 3 cemeteries (Montparnasse, Montmartre, and the smaller Passy, which came a bit later) that were opened around the same time for the same reason. Of course now it can be extremely difficult to get a space in Père Lachaise, though there are quite a few newer plots there at this time. It doesn’t take away from the historical feel though.
There are over 1,000,000 “residents” in the cemetery and that doesn’t include all the people who were cremated and call the columbarium their home in death. You can visit the crematorium, though we didn’t do it on this trip. We’ve probably spent a combined total of 5 hours at Père Lachaise and haven’t even seen 10% of the graves there – at least not in depth.
I feel like the dead should have their final resting places appreciated by more than just their family members and I tend to spend extra time really taking in the details. Many of their relatives who tend to the upkeep of their tombs and religiously bring flowers may have never met them either, but I have the opportunity of viewing it for the first time.
|Oscar Wilde’s tombstone, which is unusual as he was|
If you ever find yourself in Paris and can spare a few hours, I highly suggest a stroll around Père Lachaise. It’s a wonderfully gothic, romantic (or creepy) way to spend your time, and if there are any ghosts lingering around, think of how happy you’ll make them by stopping by their home in the afterlife and appreciating the architecture.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time on our trip to also visit Montparnasse and Montmartre as planned, but hopefully will on a future visit. We were able to visit the tombs at the Panthéon and the plot of Edgar Allen Poe in Baltimore at the Westminster Burying Grounds in the Westminster churchyard.
Do you enjoy visiting graveyards, crypts, catacombs, or cemeteries on your travels?
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