While visiting Paris, a trip to the famous Père Lachaise cemetery is a must. Not only is it the final resting place for many famous people who once lived here, it is the world’s most visited cemetery that dates back to 1804.
About Père Lachaise
Normally, I’m not huge fan of cemeteries, but there is something about Père Lachaise that makes this a totally different experience. Here you’ll find an outstanding collection of 19th century sculptures. There are over 70,000 ornate tombs scattered over 44 hectares along with over 5,000 trees.
There are over 800,000 people buried. Some of the famous residents resting here including musicians, poets, writers, actors, painters and other illustrious citizens. Some of the most famous residents include the likes of Jim Morrison, Molière, Balzac, Gertrude Stein, Chopin, Pissarro, Delacroix and Oscar Wilde. Quite the company.
Some of the graves are so popular that the officials had to fence them off to protect them from damage by the visitors. Both Jim Morrison’s and Oscar Wilde’s graves are an example of this. Overly eager fans have caused quite the damage to the graves over the years and are now protected from further damage.
While many graves are protected by fences to prevent damage, one of the graves changed that trend. The grave of Monsieur Noir used to be fenced off, but those were removed due to a public outcry. According to the story, Monsieur Noir was a 22-year-old journalist named Yvan Saman. In 1870, he was shot by the great-nephew of Napoleon, Pierre Bonaparte. The legend said that stroking the statue’s crotch let to fertility and better sex life. Judging from the current state of it, that story was taken quite seriously.
Cemetery that feels like a park
Walking through the cemetery is actually quite peaceful. We went on a sunny morning that wasn’t overly hot nor was it too cold. My previous visit was in December and it was a lot less enjoyable. The cemetery is definitely a lot less spooky on a sunny day.
According to my Lonely Planet guidebook, the cemetery was intended for Parisians only and a residency in Paris was the only criteria for burial here. It was opened because all other graveyards were becoming full. Most noteworthy point is that before this cemetery was created, Parisians were normally buried in the quarters they resided in.
The cemetery is like a giant park that can be explored for hours. Most of all, it makes for an interesting stop while in Paris and one I highly recommend.
Let me know what you think!