Montparnasse Cemetery – The final resting place of many Legendary Artists and Intellectuals:
Spread over an area of 19 hectares, Cimetière du Montparnasse is the second largest cemetery in Paris after Père Lachaise. Like Père Lachaise, it is the final resting place of many of France’s intellectual and artistic elites. A number of famous foreign playwrights and artists, like Samuel Beckett and Man Ray, who have chosen to make France their home, are also forever buried here.
Paris has a long and interesting history when it comes to how the city deals with its dearly departed citizens. In the late 18th century, many of the church cemeteries within the city centre were shut down when overcrowding and inappropriate mass burials led to health concerns. The Catacombes became the repository of all the bones that were shifted out and some six million Parisians were buried there.
In the early 19th century, Napoleon planned the creation of new cemeteries outside the fringe of the city centre. Cimetière Père Lachaise was opened in the east, Montmartre Cemetery in the north and Cimetière du Montparnasse was opened in the south on July 25, 1824.
Cimetière du Montparnasse
Montparnasse, in the 14th arrondissement, is a very busy Paris suburb, but the Montparnasse Cemetery itself is a true haven of peace. Occupying 19 hectares of land, Paris’ second largest necropolis is also one of the largest green spaces in the capital. There are plenty of trees here – some 1,200 trees of 40 different species line the paths that carve out the grounds.
The cemetery is laid out in a neat grid and like all French cemeteries it is arranged into divisions. At the entrance is a map of the grounds and an alphabetical list of its famous residents, their profession and where you can locate their graves. Today the Montparnasse cemetery houses around 35,000 graves, including a large number of famous internments.
The famous graves at Montparnasse Cemetery include those of Charles Baudelaire, Guy de Maupassant, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Charles Garnier, Man Ray, Serge Gainsbourg and Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor who created the Statue of Liberty. Although the legendary artists and intellectuals seem to hog the limelight, there are other notable Parisians here such as André-Gustave Citroën, the industrialist after whom the Citroën car was named and Henri Langlois, an influential figure in the history of cinema.
If you have time to stroll around the grounds you’ll also see some interesting tombstones such as the colourful cat sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle for ‘Ricardo‘ her assistant, a wooden pelican, Charles Pigeon’s family tomb with the sculpture of the inventor and his wife in bed. A famous work of art is ‘The Kiss’ by sculptor Constantin Brancusi and the Cenotaph of Baudelaire.
Montparnasse Cemetery was a pleasant place to stroll around and we would have spent more time here except that our visit was cut short by an approaching thunderstorm.
Cimetière du Montparnasse
3, boulevard Edgar Quinet
How to get there:
Metro – Line 6 (Edgar Quinet) or Line 4 (Raspail)
Map of Paris: