I spend time here. The winding alleys are stacked with graves, so calming, so unlike the buzzing surrounding streets of the city. There’s wisdom to be learned from the headstones and abandoned vaults and most visitors are congregated around the celebrity artists so you have much of the cemetery to yourself.
The centerpiece is the Monument to the Dead (Monument aux Morts) sculpted by Paul Albert Bartholomé. Organized in two levels, with twenty larger than life figures, the upper terrace focuses on the transition from life to death, while the lower portrays what happens after the big move. The figures on the left whispering words of farewell demonstrate the despair, grief, despondency and resignation with the death of a loved one. An inscription reads: “”Those who lived in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Chilling, non?
Behind the locked doors lies an ossuary of the bones of Parisians from cemeteries all over the city, a smaller kind of modern day catacombs. When it became overcrowded recently, the bones were removed for cremation and returned to the ossuary after the cremation process. Efforts were made to store bones and ashes in separate boxes.
Père Lachaise Cemetery
Address: 16 Rue du Repos, 75020
“The only misplaced curiosity is trying to find out here, on this side, what lies beyond the grave.” — Colette
Hours: Tuesday hours 8:30 am–12:30 pm, 2:00 pm–5:00 pm
Address: 16 Rue du Repos
The most exclusive address for a million former Parisians is Père Lachaise Cemetery opened in 1804. It’s the city’s largest greenspace (119 acres) within the Boulevard Peripherique. It receives two million visitors each year from among the living.
Permanent residents: Francois Poulenc, Heloise and Abelard, Camille Pissaro, Cherubini, Chopin, Breguet (yes the watch guy), Lalique (the glass guy), Michel Petrucciani, Auguste Comte, Champollion, Samuel Hahnemann, Gustave Dore, Jim Morrison, Moliere, La Fontaine, Murat, Antoine Parmentier, Sarah Bernhardt, Balzac, Delacroix, Merleau-Ponty, Georges Melies, Edith Piaf, Bizet, Marcel Proust, Apollinaire, Isadora Duncan, Simone Signoret, Richard Wright, Auguste Blanqui, Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas, Modigliani, Edith Piaf, Colette, Oscar Wilde.
Official Guide Map
From the pages of the No Worries Paris guidebook: “The restaurants and bistros amplify on Rue de la Roquette. But in the 17C, Roquette was but a rural road leading to the large domain of a convent of the same name—which derives from a pale yellow flower, “the rocket,” that thrived in the rubble beside the road. At the time of the Revolution and for a century thereafter, Roquette was known as the “Sinister Way,” or “Sorrowful Road.” It connected the prison at Bastille to the new cemetery at Pere Lachaise, passing two other prisons, both a men’s and women’s. Funerals and bawdy public executions by guillotine were frequent. To your right as you reach the Roquette, at #76, is Theatre de La Bastille, where the quarter’s new vibe is apparent in dance and drama performances that warp and create trends.”
Don’t be afraid to wander off the wide cobbled paths to discover historical curiosities and tidbits of wisdom.
And alien tears will fill for him
Pity’s long-broken urn,
For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn. — Oscar Wilde (engraved on his tomb)
16 Rue du Repos