English language guidebooks to paris cemeteries

Although the cemeteries of Paris are some of the most visited sites in the city -- more than a 3 million tourists visit Père-Lachaise each year alone -- there are very few dedicated cemetery guidebooks in English and one of those (Permanent Parisians) is terribly outdated. 

To help fill this gap I have published a series of Guides to the Art in Paris Cemeteries:  Père-Lachaise, Montparnasse and Montmartre (available on Amazon). 

Designed primarily for art historians, art students and photographers these reference guides will help you locate and identify more than 2,700 works of art in three of the most beautiful outdoor museums in Paris: Père-Lachaise, Montparnasse and Montmartre Cemeteries.

Probably the best general guide in English to the cemeteries of Paris is Doug Keister's Stories in Stone: Paris (Gibbs Smith 2013). It's packed full of handy information, fascinating stories and a wealth of detail neatly arranged and easy to use. He has also put Parisian burial practices in perspective with his seminal work on funeral symbology -- a nice addition as well.

Relying on the expertise and invaluable assistance of local Paris cemetery expert Marie Beleyme, Keister's latest guide provides the traveler with an easy-to-use guide to the major Paris cemeteries. While one hopes to eventually see separate English-language guides to the Paris Big Three (Père-Lachaise, Montparnasse and Montmartre), for the time being this work must be the English-language resource of record.


Garden of Stone: A Guide to 101 Incredible Sculptures in Père-Lachaise Cemetery (2012) by Steve Soper. A collection of photos of 101 of my favorite pieces of sculpture designed to inspire and tempt the photographer. Arranged by division, the location of each sculpture is also identified on a handy map. Purchase a copy here.

Secrets des Cimetières de Paris (2012) by Jacques Barozzi, photos by Bernard Ladoux. Arranged by cemetery, division and name with its bilingual text (French and English). Although a bit dated this is still a wonderful overall guide to the major grave sites in the city cemeteries.

Père-Lachaise: Elysium as Real Estate (1973) by Frederick Brown. The only other notable book in English on Paris cemeteries in English, it is not in fact a guidebook as such but nevertheless a fascinating intellectual study of Père-Lachaise Cemetery. It is quite dated and out of print. Purchase a used copy on amazon.

Permanent Parisians (1986, 1991) by Judi Culbertson and Tom Randall is one of two English-language-only guide devoted solely to Paris cemeteries. Sadly, not only is this guide out of print and out of date but contains a surprising number of inaccuracies. (If you want to know more, see my review of Permanent Parisians on amazon.com.)

Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography (2004) by Douglas Keister. If you're curious about the meanings (hidden and otherwise) of the symbols and signs used in funerary sculpture and architecture around the western world I strongly recommend you pick up a copy of Douglas Keister's perceptive study. His narrative is lucid and fascinating, and his large and stunning collection of photos span cemeteries on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Architecture of Death: The Transformation of the Cemetery in Eighteenth-Century Paris (1987) by Richard Etlin. Also out-of-print, this masterful look at the evolution of the "pastoral" concept underlying present Paris cemeteries is truly impressive. He has also brought together in one place a fantastic collection of incredible prints and illustrations.

Unexplored Paris (2009) by Rodolphe Troulleux and Jacques Lebar. While not a cemetery guide per se, this is a wonderful book nevertheless. Aside from a unique and insightful peek into those sights of Paris often missed by the harried tourist, this little book, long available only in French, points to some of the more interesting funeral things to see in the city. Index arranged by arrondissement only so you have to search around a bit.