Cimetière du Père Lachaise – A Resting Place for Luminaries of the Artistic World:
Cemeteries are not usually the kind of place that we would include in our travel itineraries, but Paris has three famous cemeteries that are widely visited.
Cimetière de Montmartre and Cimetière du Montparnasse are two famous cemeteries, but the most prestigious and the most-visited cemetery in the world is Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. More than two million visitors come to Père-Lachaise annually.
Père-Lachaise Cemetery is set on a wooded hill in the east of Paris. This huge cemetery owes its name to Père-Lachaise, the confessor of Louis XIV, who lived on this hill. In 1803, the property was bought by order of Napoleon to create a new cemetery which opened in 1804.
In its early days, Parisian families were reluctant to bury their dead here in spite of its pleasant setting with little pathways and lime and chestnuts trees. The area was considered disreputable and a little too far from the city. By 1815, there were fewer than 2,000 tombs in the then 17-hectare enclosure.
To get the Parisians to change their perception of Père-Lachaise, the city administrators devised a strategy to transfer the remains of famous individuals like Moliere and La Fontaine and then Heloise and Abelard to Père-Lachaise. This strategy achieved its desired effect as people began clamouring to be buried amongst France’s famous citizens.
From then onwards, demand rose sharply and by 1830, there were 33,000 tombs. Between 1824 and 1850, the cemetery was extended six times, bringing it to its current land area of 44 hectares. The total number of tombs now stands at 70,000 bearing the names of major figures from the world of literature, theatre and music. This “city of the dead” is the resting place of famous names like Apollinaire, Chopin, Jim Morrison, Pissarro, Piaf, Proust and Oscar Wilde, to name but a few.
The interactive Père-Lachaise Cemetery website (www.pere-lachaise.com/) lets you take a virtual tour of the grounds and the graves index lets you search for the graves of famous personalities as well as have a view of where all the famous graves are. Alternatively, join a walking tour of Père-Lachaise with a local guide and hear all the stories of the great people buried in this very special cemetery.
Cimetière du Père-Lachaise
16, rue du Repos (20th arrond.)
Open Daily, except public holidays
Metro: Père Lachaise or Philippe Auguste
Buses: 61 or 69