Guides to Père-Lachaise: an update

On a recent trip to Paris I stopped by the book section in the BHV department store and Galignani’s on rue du Rivoli to see if there were anything new out on Paris Cemeteries. Here’s what I found (and it’s not much):


Le Cimetière du Père-Lachaise by Jose de Valverdé and Hervé Hughes (Editions Ouest-France 2017), French. This is an updated version of their 2007 work by the same name. The overall format has not changed: this is basically a history of the cemetery using different eras as backdrops to identifying major figures during that period who are buried in the cemetery. One curious observation: while the page count is virtually identical yet the size of the book is significantly smaller.

Promenade napoléonienne au Père-Lachaise by Jean Tardy and Charles Dolbakian (Vendemaire 2017), French. This is a series of tours through Père-Lachaise focusing on a number of figures connected in one way or another with Napoleon. From Mademoiselle Lenormand to Marshal Ney to Jacques-Louis David and many others this book makes you realize just how much Napoleonic history is buried on that hill. In addition to handy maps with the itineraries neatly laid out each chapter focuses on a specific individual who played a role in the Napoleonic history of France. Although small in size it’s more than 340 pages long with a fine bibliography.

Guide secret des Cimetières Parisiens by Jean-Pierre Hervet (Editions Ouest-France 2017), French. At a little more than 140 pages this slip of a book has little to offer to the serious Paris cemetery researcher — but on closer examination one can find a few interesting curiosities, particularly in the sidebars.

Secrets des Cimetières de Paris by Jacques Barozzi, photos by Bernard Ladoux, (Massin 2012). 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.

Manon Roland

. . . the thing that has struck me most has been their universal mediocrity . . . it is hardly surprising that we have fallen step by step under the dominion of crass ignorance and shameful incompetence.

Sound familiar?

 Madame Roland, c. 1787, by Adélaïde Labille Guiard

Madame Roland, c. 1787, by Adélaïde Labille Guiard

Manon Roland, born in 1754, was an early sympathizer of the revolution. She is most well-known today for her memoirs she wrote in prison while awaiting trial.

On 8 November 1793 she was executed on the Place de la Revolution, today the Place de la Concorde and her body dumped into a mass grave in the Madeleine Cemetery. The cemetery itself eventually became the Chapelle Expiatoire and is the final resting place for many who were executed during the Terror, including Manon, Charlotte Corday and King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (the latter two removed to the crypt of the Basilica Saint-Denis). 

Quoted in Lucy Moore Liberty: The Life and Times of Six Women in Revolutionary France (NY, NY: Harper Collins 2007), p. 218.

Postcard from Paris: Bibesco and Noailles

Located in D28 along Chemin Dragon is this incredible work of art, the final resting place of Georges-Démètre Bibesco (1804-1873), Romanian prince of Wallachia, Marie Vacaresco madame Bibesco (1815-1859), and their grand-niece Anna de Brancovan comtesse de Noailles (1876-1933), Romanian-French poet.

The dramatic exterior hints at the stunning interior of this large chapel tomb: three large frescoes depicting religious themes stretch across the back half of the circular structure and a relief with two angels kneeling and praying one on either side of a portrait of a woman and dedicated to Marie Bibesco is found just below the altar.

Sculptor/artists: Eugène Oudine (relief) and Jean-Baptiste-Auguste Leloir (frescoes). 

Note the change in the doors -- from a solid (bronze?) to clear glass. View c. 1900:


and in 2011. . . 

 courtesey wikimedia

courtesey wikimedia

1822 Galginani's Guide to the Cemeteries of Paris

["The Cemeteries" From the 10th edition of Galignani’s New Guide to Paris, Paris, 1822, pp. 558-66. Present division location is noted in brackets]

Here pass in melancholy state
By all the solemn heaps of fate,
And think, as softly sad you tread
Above the venerable dead;
Time was, like thee, they life possest,
And time shall be, that thou shalt rest.

* * *

Cemetery of Montmartre.

The Cemetery of Montmartre is situated to the north of Paris, near the hill of that name. The road to it is by the barriers of Clichy and Rochechouart. The spot which it occupies was formerly a plaster-quarry; and the irregularity of the ground, arising from this circumstance, gives it rather a picturesque and romantic appearance. When the door of the cemetery is opened, you behold a deep valley, with tombs scattered here and there, surrounded by trees and verdure. It was the first cemetery that was used, and it was in this valley that the first interment was made.

At the bottom of the valley, a little to the left, is the great common grave in which are buried in rows all those who do not receive the honour of a particular grave.

Three eminences or elevations are remarked within this cemetery. The first and most considerable is to the right, on entering; it forms almost a third of the cemetery, and is a continuation of the hill of Montmartre. The second is to the left, and is the smallest. The third is at the bottom of the valley opposite the entrance, where is a small building for the grave-diggers and workmen to deposit their tools.

On the eminence, to the right, against the wall of enclosure, is the tomb of Legouvé, member of the national institute and of the legion of honour, and author of the charming poem, Le mérite des Femmes. This tomb, of a square form, is placed in the middle of a little garden, surrounded by an iron railing. On the south side is a stone bench, on which the poet used to go and sit to lament his wife, whom he had the misfortune to survive, and near whom he now lies. Legouvé died in 1812.

At the entrance of the valley, on a modest stone, is this inscription: Mademoisselle Volnais, du Theâtre Français, aux mânes de dame veuve Crozet.  Below are the following beautiful and affecting lines.

Celle qut dort ici, des ma premiere aurore,
Me cembla de sea soins, de sea tendres secours;
Quand je serai, comme elle, au terme de mes jours,
Mes yeux, en se fermant, la pleureront encore

In the middle of the valley is the tomb of the Vicomte de la Tour-Dupin, with an epitaph by Delille. Next to him lies the famous dancer, Vestris.

On a· black marble slab, under the shade of a poplar and a cypress, is an excellent epitaph to the memory of the poet, Saint Lambert, author of the beautiful poem of the Seasons. He died in 1803. [Lambert was transferred to D11 Père-Lachaise.]

There is also a monument in this cemetery of the celebrated sculptor, Pigalle; and there are many other tombs and epitaphs, well calculated to interest the visiter, but none erected to any other person of note.

Cemetery of Père la Chaise.

This vast burial-ground is situated at the extremity of the new boulevards, to the east of Paris, and near the barriere d'Aulnay.

The approach is inconvenient, through a sort of narrow street, formed on one hand, by the walls of the enclosure, on the other, by the houses situated beyond the barrier. On entering, the great court is first traversed, to the left of which is the porter's lodge. From this we pass into the cemetery, the sight of which strikes and surprises every person the first time he sees it. On the left is seen a long building which was formerly a hothouse, but is now the workshop of a statuary, who erects monuments for the cemetery.

The enclosure, which forms the cemetery, was formerly the property of the famous confessor of Lewis [sic] XIV, Père la Chaise. The house which that king built for him; still exists, but in a ruinous state, having been abandoned long before there was any idea of turning the enclosure into a cemetery. It stands majestically on the steep slope of the hill which forms the greatest part of the enclosure and commands it entirely. The traces of the ditches and moat, which surrounded it and supplied it with water, are still visible near the house. The water, which still flows by a little subterraneous canal, is now used by the gardener of the cemetery for watering the little gardens which surround the tombs; and he carries it from one to another in a cart drawn by an ass. It is limpid and good to drink.

This burial-ground is the largest of the four cemeteries of Paris. It is said to contain from 60 to 8o acres, entirely enclosed by a stone wall. It is principally composed of a hill; only at the entrance the ground offers some appearance of a plain, and to the right, on the side of Charonne, is a sort of valley. To the left, and behind the buildings of the court, is another plain, where the porter has formed a garden, and where the common graves are daily opened. The hill and the valley to the right are destined to receive the monumental tombs.

There are few places in the environs of Paris from which the view is so extensive and varied. To the west is the whole of Paris; to the north, BeIleville and Montmartre; to the south, Bicetre and Meudon; to the east, the fine plain of Sainte-Mande, Montreuil, Vincennes, and the fertile banks of the Marne.

The tombs in the cemetery of Père la Chaise are generally constructed with more luxury and magnificence than in that of Montmartre. Most of them are gaudy monuments. This cemetery, though it has only been in use for about 30 years, is become the fashionable burial-ground; as, in this country, all is subject to the laws of fashion. Here the great and the wealthy choose their sepulture.

How many rest who kept the world awake
With lustre and with noise!

This burial-ground has a peculiarity which does not exist in the other cemeteries of Paris. Destined formerly for a pleasure-ground and orchard, it is still full of flowering shrubs and fruit-trees; which, mixed with the cypresses, poplar. and weeping willows, that hang over the tombs, give It an appearance quite novel and extraordinary.

To the right, on ascending towards the house of Pere la Chaise, the first interesting monument, a good way up, and on the left band, is a column of greyish white marble, ornamented by an urn, remarkable for the affecting simplicity of the epitaph it bears: le repose Marianne Diedericke, Comtesse de la Marcke, de Dessau, en Prusse, decede le 11 Juin 1814, agée de 34 ans. --Qui l' a connue la pleure. [D8?]

Almost close to this tomb, on a base of black marble, is a pedestal of white marble, on which is inscribed: Marie Joseph Chenier, ne a Constantinople en 1764, mort a Paris en 1811. [D8]

To the left of the tomb of Chenier, under a walk of trees, is that of Delille [D11], the French Virgil. This monument is of large dimensions, and constructed of solid stone. The interior is large, and has a bronze door, over which is engraved Jacques Delille. It is surrounded by a garden, very neatly kept up, enclosed by an elegant iron railing.

We are now on the classical ground of the cemetery.

To the left of Delille’s tomb, in the same alley, and in a manner under the shade of the same trees, in the centre of a little grove, is a column, surmounted by a funeral urn. On the column is engraved a sphere, the symbol of the talent of the deceased. Below is inscribed: Edmond Mentelle, membre de l'Institut, decide le 20 decembre 1815, a l’age de 86 ans. [D11]

Near the tomb of Delille, on the same line, and the right, a square tomb of white marble. On the front is a lyre sculptured, and this inscription: Andre Ernest Modeste Gretry, ne a Liege Ile 11 fervor 1741, decide le 24 septembre 1813. [D11]

A little above is the monument of Fourcroy [D11].

Leaving hill, and going towards the south-west into the valley, we find, close against the wall of the enclosure, the tomb of Labedoyere [D16], the unfortunate officer, who, forgetting his duty to his king, was the first to join Bonaparte when he advanced to Grenoble, after having landed in France from the isle of Elba, in 1815.

Further on, in the valley, to the left, on a height, is a little grove, but without a tomb, from the midst of which a large wooden cross, painted black, on which we read: ici repose Claude dit Pierre, inventeur de l'ingenieux spectacle mecanique pittorsque, decede 26 septembre 1814, age de 75 ans.

On the most elevated point of the cemetery, from which the view extends over eastern part Paris, and over all valley between it and Vincennes, is a small plot formerly called the Belvedere. There, under the shade of eight lime trees, planted in a square, is well executed tomb, in the form of a small house. Here lies Frédéric Mestrezart, [D39] a protestant pastor of the church of Geneva. On the occasion of this tomb of a protestant minister, raised in the midst of the graves of catholics, and in the former property of one of the most cruel persecutors of protestantism, a French writer exclaims: “O the power of time, and of the revolutions which it brings in its train! a minister of Calvin reposes not far from that Charenton, where the reformed religion saw its temple demolished, and its preacher proscribed. He reposes in that ground where a bigotted jesuit loved to meditate on his plans of intolerance and persecution!"

Near this monument to the memory of the minister Mestrezart is the simple tomb of the celebrated authoress Madame Cottin [D39].

Not far off, on the height, is the monument of the renowned general and marshal, Massena [D28]. It is a lofty pyramid, on one side of which is a low relief, representing his portrait, with his name, and the date of his death.

Following the same road from south to north, at some distance on the left, is an elegant tomb to the memory of Parmentier [D39], one of those men who consecrate their whole lives to the good of their country. Among other benefits, France is indebted to him in a great measure for the general cultivation of the potato.

At the oriental extremity of' the cemetery, almost opposite the house of Pere la Chaise, marshal Ney was interred under a simple monument, on which was inscribed: Ci git le marechal Ney, duc d' Elchingen, prince de la Moscowa, decede Is 7 decembre 1815. [D29] This tomb has been removed. [Reportedly the tomb was originally located in what is now either D44 or D45.]

Immediately on entering this cemetery we observe, at little distance to the monument in the Gothic style, which contains the tomb in which are the ashes of Abelard and Eloisa [D7]. This elegant monument, constructed by the care and taste of M. Lenoir, was formerly in the Museum of French Monuments, founded by him during the revolution, but no longer existing.

Monuments have also been erected lately to Lafontaine and Moliere [D25] and there are many other tombs, of which forms or the inscriptions will prove interesting to the traveller; but the limits of our Guide will not allow us to indulge any further particulars.

In 1814, when the enemy was approaching the capital, the cemetery of Père la Chaise was considered as important position, and worthy of being fortified, and the walls were pierced with loopholes for the musquetry. These holes are still visible. On the 30th of March this position was vigorously attacked by two entire Russian divisions, and Paris having capitulated the same evening, the Russians formed their bivouac in cemetery.

Cemetery of Vaugirard

It is situated beyond the western boulevards, at the entrance of the village of Vaugirard. This cemetery has few remarkable monuments. The poor chiefly are buried here; it is the burial place of those who die in the great hospital called l’Hôtel-Dieu, and also of the numerous and indigent population of the faubourgs Saint Jacques.

On a simple stone, let into the east wall, is an inscription to the memory of the famous actress Hypolyte Clairon [transferred to D20 Père-Lachaise]; and about 30 yards from her is buried the celebrated La Harpe, author of Cours de Littérature and other works.

Cemetery of Sainte-Catherine.

Though this last cemetery is in the interior of Paris, we mention it here in order to complete the description of all the cemeteries of Paris, in one article. The cemetery of Saint Catherine is situated in the least populous part of the faubourg Saint-Marceau, in the street of the Gobelins. On this account there are fewer remarkable monument here than even in that of Vaugirard. We shall only mention one. To the right, almost in the middle of the first group of tomb-stones, is a monument of common stone, raised on three steps. Above is a sort of military trophy, formed of a helmet met, a cannon ball, and two swords laid acrosS

I' each other. On the principal front is this inscription: Ici reposent des cendres de Charles Pichegru, general-en-chef des armees françaises, ne á Arbois, departement du Jura, le14 fevrier 1761; mort a Paris, le 5 avril 1814. Eleve par la pieté filiale .

Thus, in an obscure corner, under a tomb hardly known, reposes the conquerer of Holland. He who first accustomed the French to those splendid victories which afterwards raised to so high a pitch their military glory. The circumstances of the death of Pichegru, in the Temple, are too well known to be repeated here.

Such are the four great Cemeteries of Paris. Formed scarcely 30 years ago, they figure already among the most curious and remarkable establishments of the capital, from the diversity of funeral monuments they contain. A walk through them is certainly one of the most interesting objects which we can recommend to the attention of the observing traveler.

1820 Recollections of John Adolphus

["Chapter V," From Emily Henderson, Recollections of the Public Career and Private Life of the Late John Adolphus, London: Cautley Newby, Publisher, 1871, pp. 118-120.]

"We all went this morning to the Cimetiere of Pere la Chaise, the celebrated burial ground, where everything ancient and modern that can be laid hands on is brought together for a show. The ground is said to contain 80 acres, and is on the ascent of a hill, so that tombs above tombs rise in ranks, and as they are mostly planted with firs, shrubs, and flowers, the effect of these mixed with mausoleums, columns, and -other memorials of death, is exceedingly pretty; and if the sole business of those who inter the dead is to make their burial place look pretty, and to allure people to it as a gazing place, the French have indeed succeeded to a miracle.

"When I walk through the aisles of Westminster Abbey, of St. Paul's, of Canterbury, and other cathedrals and ancient churches, and see the structures raised in honour of the illustrious dead; when I read their histories, recorded in an imperishable language, and see their effigies sculptured in an attitude of devotion, or surrounded by some of the host of heaven, my heart warms with the recollection of their famous acts, and melts in sympathy with those pious friends who, in commemorating their worth, have not forgotten to express the hope of their everlasting welfare in a better world. Even when in a more humble churchyard I perceive the frail memorials raised by unlettered humanity, the rhyme uncouth, the 'shapeless sculpture,' and the 'many a holy text,' are so apposite to the situation that I feel as a son towards the aged 'forefathers of the hamlet,' and as a brother or parent toward the young. They are buried as a family; the almost universal description is 'of this parish,' and they all profess the hope of meeting again in a joyful resurrection. But in this strange rare show of death the tomb of Abelard [D07] greets you here, those of Boileau, Moliere [D25], and Racine there. Here a warrior who fought at Fontenoy, and continued fighting till 1793; there an insignificant tomb, guarded with heavy chains, denotes the resting place of a shopkeeper who died worth a great deal of money. All these concur in a general contempt of religion, for not one in a hundred condescends to say 'resurgam,' but as many as have any wit or fancy try to surprise you into a stare, or tickle you into a laugh. A lady inscribes on a tomb, 'To my best friend, my husband.' Another,' Alexander to his mother.' Alexander! What Alexander-the Great? the Coppersmith? or who? Find it out, says the tombstone. Another commemorates, 'Zenobia and Zoe.' 'Pray, sir,' said I to a French artisan, who had asked me a question about the inscription, 'were these young ladies your daughters or mine?' The man stared as if struck with a new idea. 'Why to be sure,' he said, ' they ought to have put their nom de famille.' 

"Many of the tombs are very pretty, and some yet unfinished seemed well suited to their purpose, and to promise long duration, but the general air of the place was to me heathenish or worse. I could not help thinking that if Gobet could again be Bishop of Paris, and Hebert, Chaumette, and the rest of the Cordeliers again succeed in abolishing the belief in God, the proprietors of this cemetery would have little to do beside inscribing on the portal, 'Death is an eternal sleep,' to bring it quite to the level of the day.

"Paris is seen to great advantage from Père la Chaise, but no distant view of it affords much pleasure. From this spot its white walls, standing in an arid plain, form a continuation of the burying-place, and so require little aid of fancy to blend the mansions of the living with the receptacles of the dead.

Back in Père-Lachaise


I spent last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons at Père-Lachaise updating my guide to the artwork in the cemetery as well as my forthcoming book on listing the earliest burials. Next Mayday, 1 May, I'll return to spend time with Marie and Carolyn exploring more of the cemetery's secrets.

Last week I also had the pleasure of meeting -- at long last -- someone who's work I have relied on to help locate and frequently clarify grave locations: Pierre-Yves Beaudouin. His is not only the driving force behind the Wikimedia project to post several thousands photos of the cemetery division-by-division but he is also the manager of the Wikimedia Cheese Project (you have got to see this to believe it) and is a phenomenal sports photographer. He and I spent Thursday afternoon tracking down several graves I need to find. Learn more about Pierre right here.

Update from Passy Cemetery

I spent the better part of last Saturday afternoon in Passy and wanted to pass along a quick update regarding grave locations in the cemetery.

While it is certainly one of the smaller and more fascinating cemeteries in Paris, unlike Père-Lachaise, Montmartre or Montparnasse, it lacks division or section signage. Mind you the cemetery is divided into distinct sections but you will need a map and a bit reckoning to figure out which division is which. Maps are available at the entrance near the office: several are usually hanging outside the office door; you can also download an official map right here.

 Inside the main entrance - note the incredible reliefs above the doors

Inside the main entrance - note the incredible reliefs above the doors

Early views of Père-Lachaise

While there are several fine prints of the cemetery's early history there are few photos that predate the 20th century. Here are two fine views taken in the late 19th century from across Boulevard Menilmontant.

In the first one you can clearly see present-day divisions 1 (right) and 59 (left) separated by Avenue Thirion.


In the second, taken from roughly the same vantage point, you can clearly see the Beaujour obelisk in the background, the cemetery wall and the open ground devoid of any interments as the hill slopes down to divisions 59, 60, 61 and 62,


1822 New Monthly Magazine

["The Cemetery of Pere La Chaise," 1822 The New Monthly, pp. 155-59]

I am half disposed to admit the assertion of a lively authoress, that the French are a grave people, and absolutely determined upon contradicting the received opinion in England, that in the volatility of their character their sympathies, however easily excited, are generally evanescent; and that the claims of kindred or friendship, so far from awakening any permanent sensibility, are quickly superseded by the paramount dominion of frivolity and amusement. Let any man who is laboring under this mistaken impression pay a visit to the Cemetery of Pere La Chaise; and if he do not hate France more than falsehood, he will admit that in the precincts of this beautiful and affecting spot there is not only a more striking assemblage of tasteful decoration and appropriate monumental sculpture, but more pervading evidences of deep, lingering, heart-rending affection for the dead than could be paralleled in England or any other country of Europe. The tombs elsewhere seem to be monuments of oblivion, not remembrance – they designate spots to be avoided, not visited, unless by the idle curiosity of strangers; here they seem built up with the heart as well as with the hands; -- they are hallowed by the frequent presence of sorrowing survivors, who, by various devices of ingenious and elegant offerings, still testify their grief and their respect for the departed, and keep up by these pious visitings a sort of holy communion between the living and the dead.

Never, never shall I forget the solemn, yet sweet and soothing emotions that thrilled my bosom at the first visit to Pere La Chaise. Women were in attendance as we approached the gate, offering for sale elegant crowns, crosses, and wreaths of orange blossom, xereanthemum, amaranth, and other everlasting flowers, which the mourning relatives and friends are accustomed to suspend upon the monument, or throw down upon the grave, or entwine among the shrubs with which every enclosure is decorated.

Congratulating myself that I had no such melancholy office to perform, I passed into this vast sanctuary of the dead, and found myself in a variegated and wide-spreading garden, consisting of hill and dale, redolent with flowers, and thickly planted with luxuriant shrubs and trees, from the midst of which monumental stones, columns, obelisks, pyramids, and temples shot up in such profusion that I was undecided which path to explore first, and stood some time in silent contemplation of the whole scene, which occupies a space of from sixty to eighty acres. A lofty Gothic monument on the right first claimed my attention, and on approaching it I found that it contained the tomb in which are the ashes of Abelard and Eloiosa [D7], united at last in death, but even then denied that rest and repose to which they were strangers in their unhappy and passionate lives. Interred, after various removals, at Soissons, in the year 1120, they were transported in the year eight of the Republic from Chalons sur Saone to the Museum of French Monuments at Paris, and thence to the romantic spot which they at present occupy. We learn from the inscription, that with all his talents Abelard could not comprehend the doctrine of the Trinity, and on this account incurred the censure of contemporary hierarchs. Subsequently, however, he seems to have seen the wisdom of a more accommodating faith; and having evinced his orthodoxy by the irrefutable argument of causing three figures to be sculptured upon one stone, which is still visible, being let into the side of his tomb, he was restored to confidence and protection of the church. I have seen at Paris the dilapidated house in which he is stated to have resided; and now to be standing above the very dust which once contributed to form the fine intellect and throbbing hearts of these celebrated lovers, seemed to be an annihilation of intervening centuries, throwing the mind back to that remote period when Eliosa from the “deep solitudes and awful cells” of her convent edited those love—breathing epistles which have spread through the world the fame of her unhappy attachment.

Quitting this interesting spot, a wilderness of little enclosures presented itself, almost every one profusely planted with flowers, and overshadowed by poplar, cypress, weeping willow, and arbor vitae, interspersed among the flowering shrubs and fruit trees; for the ground, before its present appropriation had been laid out as a pleasure garden. Many of the tombs were provided with a watering-pot for the refreshment of the flowers, and the majority had a stone seat for the accommodation of those who came hither to indulge in melancholy retrospection, as they stationed themselves upon the grave in which their affections were deposited. Here and there the sufferers from filial, parental, or conjugal deprivation, were seem trimming the foliage or flowers that sprung up from the remains of their kindred flesh, and as they handled the shrubs, whose roots struck down into the very grave, one could almost image that the dead stretched forth into their leafy arms from the earth to embrace once more those whom they had so fondly encircled when alive. In many instances, however, it must be confessed that this pious duty was deputed to the keepers of the ground, who for a small stipend maintained the tombs in a perpetual greenness. Some contented themselves with hanging a funeral garland on the monuments of their friends, by the number and freshness of which tributes we were enabled to judge, in some degree, of the merits of the deceased, and of the recency with which sad bosoms and glistening eyes had occupied the spot on which then stood. Some were blooming all over with these flowery offerings, while others with a single forlorn and withered chaplet, or absolutely bare, showed that their mouldering tenants had left no friends behind; or that time had wrought his usual effect, and either brought them to the same appointed house, or “steeped their senses in forgetfulness.”

In ascending the hill extensive family vaults are seen, excavated in its side in the style of the ancients, with numerous recesses for coffins, the whole enclosed by bronze gates of exquisite taste and workmanship, through which might be seen the chairs for those who wish to shut themselves up and meditate in the sepulcher which they are permanently to occupy; while the yellow wreath upon the ground, or coffin, pointed out the latest occupant of the chamber of death. Some well-known name was perpetually presenting itself to our notice. In one place we encountered the tomb of the unfortunate Laboydere [D16], who was the first to join Napoleon when he advanced to Grenoble in 1815, and expiated his offence with his life. The spot in which the hapless Ney was deposited was shown to us, but his monument has been removed. A lofty and elegant pyramid on the height bore the name of the celebrated Massena; and as we roamed about, we trod over the remains of republicans, royalists, marshals, demagogues, liberals, ultras, and many of the victors and victims of the Revolution, whose exploits and sufferings have filled our gazettes, and been familiar in our mouths for the last twenty or thirty years.

A few steps more brought us to the summit of the hill, commanding a noble view of Paris, the innumerable white buildings of which stood out with a panoramic and lucid sharpness in the deep blue of a cloudless sky, not a single wreath of smoke dimming the clearness of the view. Nothing was seen to move – a dead silence reigned around – the whole scene resembled a bright and tranquil painting.

On the highest point of the whole cemetery, under the shade of eight lime trees planted in a square, is the tomb of Frederic Mestezart [D39], a Protestant pastor of the Church of Geneva. A French writer well observes, on the occasion of this tomb, raised in the midst of the graves of Catholics, and in the former property of one of the most cruel persecutors of Protestantism, “O the power of time, and of the revolutions which it brings in its train! A minister of Calvin reposes not far from the Charenton where the reformed religion saw its temple demolished and its preacher proscribed! He reposes in that ground where a bigoted Jesuit loved to meditate on his plans of intolerance and persecution!”

Not far from this spot is the tomb of the well-known authoress Madame Cottin [D39], and monuments have also been lately erected to the memory of Lafontaine and Moliere [both D25]. A low pyramid is the appropriate sepulcher of Volney [D41]; and at the extremity of a walk of trees, surrounded by a little garden, is the equally well adapted monument of Delille [D11], the poet of the Gardens. Mentelle [D11] and Fourcroy [D11] repose at a little distance and in the same vicinity, beneath a square tomb of white marble, decorated with a lyre, are deposited the remains of Gretry [D11], the celebrated composer, whose bust I had the day before seen in the garden of the Hermitage art Montmorency, once occupied by Rousseau. How refreshing to turn from the costly and luxurious memorials of many who had been the torments and scourges of their time, to these classic shades, where sleep the benefactors of the world, men who have enlightened it by their wisdom, animated it by their gaiety, or soothed it by their delightful harmonies!

Amid the tombs upon the heights a low enclosure, arched over at top to preserve it from the weather, but fenced at the sides with open wire-work, through which we observed that the whole interior surface was carefully overspread with moss, and strewed with fresh gathered white flowers, which also expanded their fragrance from vases of white porcelain, the whole arranged with exquisite neatness and care. There was no name or record but the following simple and pathetic inscription: “Fille Cherie – avec toi mes beaux jours sont passes! 5 Juin, 1819.” Above two years had elapsed since the erection of this tomb, yet whenever I subsequently visited it, which I sometimes did at an early hour, the wakeful and unwearied solicitude of maternal regret had preceded me; the moss was newly laid, the flowers appeared to be just plucked, the vases shone with unsullied whiteness, as if even the dew had been carefully wiped off. How keen and intense must have been that affection which could so long survive its object, and gather fresh force even from the energy of despair!

An inscription to the memory of Eleanor MacGowan, a Scotch-woman recalled to mind the touching lines of Pope – “by foreign hands, etc.” but though we might admire the characteristic nationality, we could hardly applaud the taste which had planted this grave, as well as some others of her countrymen, with thistles. English names often startled us as we walked through the alleys of tomb-stones; and it as gratifying to find that even from these, the coarse and clumsy, though established emblems of the death’s head and marrow bones had been discarded. Obtuse, indeed must be those faculties which need such repulsive bone-writing to explain to them the perishableness of humanity.

We nowhere encountered any of the miserable doggerel which defaces our graves in England, under the abused name of poetry; and, in fact, poetic inscriptions of any sort were extremely rare. Some may assign this to the want of poetical genius in the French, but it might be certainly more charitable, and possibly more just, to attribute it to the sincerity of their regrets; for I doubt whether the lacerated bosom, in the first burst of its grief, has ever any disposition to dally with the Muses. A softened heart may seek solace in such effusions, but not an agonized one. Some rhyming epitaphs were, however visible. Under the name of the well known Regnault de St. Jean d’Angely [D11] these lines were inscribed.

Francois, de son dernier soupir Il a salue la patrie; Un meme jour a vu finir Ses maux, son exil, et sa vie.

And a very handsome monument to the memory of an artist, in bronze and gold, named Ravrio [D10], informs us that he was the author also of numerous fugitive pieces, to prevent his following which into oblivion, his bust, well executed in bronze, surmounts his tomb; and the following verses give us a little insight into his character.

Un fils d’Anacreon a finis a carriere, Il est dans ce tombeau pour jamais endormi, Les enfans des beaux arts sont prives de leur frère, Les malheaureux ont perdu leur ami.”

The practice of affixing busts to tombs seems worthy of more general adoption – it identifies and individualizes the deceased and thus creates a more definable object for our sympathies. Perhaps the miniatures which we occasionally saw let into the tombstones and glazed over, attained this point more effectually, as the contrast between the bright eye and the blooming cheek above, and the fleshless skeleton below, was rendered doubly impressive. Not only is the doggerel of the English church-yard banished from Pere La Chaise, but it is undegraded by the bad spelling and ungrammatical construction which with us are so apt to awaken ludicrous ideas, where none but solemn impressions should be felt. The order by which all lapidary inscriptions must be submitted to previous inspection, though savouring somewhat of arbitrary regulation, is perhaps necessary in the present excited state of political feeling, and is doubtless the main cause of the general propriety and decorum by which they are distinguished. The whole management of the place appears to be admirably conducted – decency and good order universally prevailed – not a stone scribbled over. It was impossible to avoid drawing painful comparisons between the state of the plainest tombs here, and the most elaborate in Westminster Abbey, defaced and desecrated as many of the latter are by the empty-headed puppies of the adjoining school, and the brutal violations of an uncivilized rabble. This sacred respect for the works of art is not peculiar to the Cemetery of Pere La Chaise, nor solely due to the vigilance of the police, for in the innumerable statues and sculptures with which Paris and its neighborhood abound many scattered about in solitary walks and gardens at the mercy of the public, I have never observed the smallest mutilation, nor nay indecorous scribbling. The lowest Frenchman has been familiarized with works of art until he has learnt to take a pride in them, and to this extent at least has verified the old adage, that such a feeling “emollit mores nec sinit esse feros.”

As I stood upon the hill, I saw a funeral procession slowly winding amid the trees and avenues below. Its distant effect was impressive, but, as it approached, it appeared to be strikingly deficient in that well-appointed and consistent solemnity by which the same ceremony is uniformly distinguished in England. The hearse was dirty and shabby, the mourning coaches as bad, the horses and harness worse; the coachmen in their rusty coats and cocked hats seemed to be a compound of paupers and old clothesmen; the dress of the priests had an appearance at once mean and ludicrous; the coffin was an unpainted deal box; the grave was hardly four feet deep, and the whole service was performed in a careless and unimpressive manner. Yet this was a funeral of a substantial tradesman, followed by a respectable train of mourners. Here was all the external observance, perhaps, that reason requires; but where our associations have been made conversant with a more scrupulous and dignified treatment, it is difficult to reconcile ourselves to such a slovenly mode of interment, although it may be the established system of the country. All the funerals here are in the hands of a company, who, for the privilege of burying the rich at fixed prices, contract to inhume all the poor for nothing. It is hardly to be supposed, that in such a multiplicity of tomb there are not some offensive to good taste. Many are gaudy and fantastical, dressed up with paltry figures of the Virgin and Child, and those tin and tinsel decorations which the rich in faith and poor pocket are apt to set up in Roman Catholic countries – but the generality are of a much nobler order, and I defy any candid traveler to spend a morning in the Cemetery of Pere La Chaise without feeling a higher respect for the French character, and forming a more pleasing estimate of human nature in general.

Père-Lachaise and la petit ceinture

What's curious about this map from an old Baedeker guide to Paris (1904) is right there in the upper left-hand corner: those dotted lines that outline the tunnel for the long-gone Chemin de fer de Ceinture, the small underground railway that once linked now-defunct intra-city train stations and served as a means of resupplying the old fortifications.

My question is: Was the tunnel the reason why D83 was never used for burials but only as a maintenance facility?

Thanks to Marie B. we have the answer: the tunnel collapsed in 1874 destroying all the graves in that division and the space was never reused.


Anyway, the map shows the tunnel running between the Menilmontant and Charonne passenger stations. While the stations are long gone and the tunnel no longer is used parts of it still exists, such as the old Charonne station converted into a cafe:

Charonne_convertie en café %22La Flèche d'Or.jpeg

. . . or near the Parc Montsouris:


Postcard from Paris: Memorial to the Soldiers who died in the Siege of Paris

Right off of Avenue Circulaire in division 64 is the Memorial to the Soldiers Who Died During the Siege of Paris, 1870–1871. Designed by A. Rivière, this monument (c. 1873) consists of four life-size statues:

  • l’Artilleur/Artilleryman, by J. B. C. E. Power;
  • Soldat de la ligne/Soldier of the Line, by Louis Schrœder;
  • Le Garde mobile/Mobile Guard, by Camille Lefèvre;
  • Fusilier marin/Marine, also by Louis Schrœder. 

First image from c. 1900:


and from 2006:


Postcard from Paris: Pradier

Located along the Street: Chemin Molière is the tomb of Jacques “James” Pradier (1794–1852). Pradier was a French sculptor and among his well-known public works he created the bust of his father-in-law Jean-Pierre d’Arcet (D34).  This particular monument will require some time to fully appreciate all its artistic elements including a bust of Pradier and reliefs of several of Pradier’s most notable works by former students: 

  • Phryne, by Antoine Étex;
  • Psyche, by Claude-Eugène Guillaume; 
  • Niobide, by Jacques-Léonard Maillet; 
  • Sappho, by Pierre-Charles Simart;
  •  Cyparisse, by Hippolyte Ferrat; 
  • Nyssia, by Augustin Courtet; 
  • La Poésie légère, by François-Félix Roubaud; 
  • Pelion or Phydias, by François-Clément Moreau.

Bust of Pradier is by former student Eugene-Louis Lequesne. The tomb's architect was Antoine-Martin Garnaud. Early 20th century:


and c. 2011:

 photo by Pierre-Yves Beaudouin, wikimedia

photo by Pierre-Yves Beaudouin, wikimedia

1825 The Mirror


[ “The Cemetery of Père La Chaise” in The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, No. CXXII, Saturday, January 8, 1825, No. 122, London: J. Limbird, pp. 17-19.]

The cemetery of Père la Chaise, of which the above engraving presents a view, at once correct and striking, is one of the most interesting places that a person going to France can visit. Indeed, no thing can be more striking and affecting to the imagination. It is only sufficient to go there, to be convinced how true the affection which the mothers, sons, and sisters of France, have for each other. How simple, and yet how tender, the inscriptions upon the tombs! There the sister goes to renew the tender recollection of her sister, and a son to place a garland over the grave of his mother. With the English, the dead are scarcely ever visited, and seldom remembered; but it is not so with the French, who do not think it inconsistent to mix the kindest feelings to their relations with the sociability of a larger circle.

Some persons are of opinion that church-yards are the only proper place for Christian burial; on the contrary, the origin of their use in England for that purpose is not of earlier date than the year 750; and agreeably to the old Roman Law of the Twelve Tables, the place of inhumation was ordered to be not within the city, but without its walls. Certainly ground destined for sepulture should, according to the law of the church, be duly consecrated; and when this is the case, it is perfectly immaterial whether it is attached to a church or separated from it; indeed, many of the church-yards in London are at a distance from a church, and it would, perhaps, be well if they were all out of the metropolis, since, as Lord Stowell well observed in one of his learned and elaborate decisions, "They cannot be made commensurate to the demands of a large and increasing population : the period of decay and dissolution does not arrive fast enough, in the accustomed mode of depositing bodies in the earth, to evacuate the ground for the use of the succeeding claimants."

Indeed, most of these cemeteries are narrow, close, filthy, and almost indecent; and though new crypts have been formed in building the new churches, yet for the most part no monuments can be raised in the burial grounds, nor even be affixed to the walls of the sacred edifices.

Not so the cemetery of Père la Chaise, a chosen spot just without the walls of Paris, where the ashes of Jew and Gentile, Protestant and Catholic, rich and poor, repose in charitable vicinity. The circumference of the burial ground is upwards of two miles. The ground is laid out with taste and elegance, diversified in position, beautified with shrubs and flowers, and appropriately adorned with monuments, some interesting from their historical recollections, some touching from the simplicity and tenderness of their inscriptions; but all neat, decent, and appropriate to the solemnity of the scene.

 The number of tombs has greatly in creased during the last few years, and fashion and ostentation which play so many freaks on the busy stage of life, intrude their follies and their fripperies even into this quiet and peaceful sanctuary; and the modest stone with its emblematic cross, over which the cypress mourned and the willow fondly drooped, has given place to the obelisk, the pyramid, and the temple.

The tombs and graves in the cemetery are kept in the highest order and repair, and almost all of them are planted with shrubs and fragrant flowers, mingled with the mournful cypress and yew: the acacia tree is also planted in great abundance, and the wild vine spreads its broad leaves and graceful clusters over many of the monuments.

Many of the tombs are interesting on account of the celebrity of the persons they commemorate, and others' for the beauty and simplicity of their inscriptions. Of the former class, the tomb of the poet Delille [D11], which is situated in the higher part of the ground under the shade of a bower of linden trees, is one of the most interesting. Those of Moliere, La Fontaine [both D25], Eloisa, and Abelard [D07], Madame Cotton [sic: Cottin, D39], Marshals Massena [D28] and Ney [D29], with many others of characters highly distinguished, as well worthy of notice.

As a specimen of the affecting brevity and pathetic simplicity of the inscriptions on tombs in this burial ground we may instance the following. The first is on the monument of a man who died in the prime of life.

A la memoire de mon meilleur ami.
C’ etoit mon frere.

On another:

Ci git P. N., son epouse perd en lui le plus tendre de ses amis, et ses enfans un modele de vertu.

A little crown of artificial orange blossoms, half blown, was in a glass case at the head of the tablet.

And upon a tomb raised by the parents to the memory of a child.

Ci git notre fils cheri.

The following is a touching epitaph on a young girl:—

A sa famille
Elle apporta le bonheur;
II s'enfuit avec elle!

The following are also among the inscriptions in this celebrated spot:

Le Malheur, l’Amour,
La Reconnoissance,
Au modele de toutes les vertus,
A son excellente Zephirine.


A mon Theodore.


Repose en paix, ma bien aimee. Celeste! demain nous reviendrons te voir.


Tu reposes mon fils, et ta mere
Est dans la douleur!


A notre bon Père
Des fils reconnoissants.


A peine cinq printemps vecut notre Pauline,
C’etoit le gage heureux de l'hymen le plus doux,
Chacun aimoit son air et sa grace enfantine—
Ah! de notre bonheur le destin fut jaloux!

Many garlands of fresh and sweet flowers are hung upon the graves, and every thing marks the existence of tender remembrance and regret; it appears as if in this place alone the dead are never forgotten.

Struck with the contrast which our city church-yards present to the burial-ground of the Père la Chaise, some individuals have projected a scheme for a receptacle of the dead on a large scale in the vicinity of London. They propose to give it the name of the Necropolis, or "City of the Dead;" and mean that it shall be laid out in a style, which for solemnity, taste, and magnificence, may surpass any thing yet undertaken. To what expense do not our opulent individuals often go to erect in their demesnes some monumental record of a friend, perhaps even of a faithful dog, on the banks of a limpid rivulet, near a grotto overhung with weeping willows or shadowed by the mournful cypress! And would they not much rather adorn a spot of consecrated ground, which might always be kept neat and clean, well watched and guarded against violent intrusion, and resorted to by those only whose sentiments were in unison with the melancholy sanctity of the place?—The taste for gardening and for every thing rural is proverbially prevalent among the English; and those who may chance to visit a country church-yard “under the shade of melancholy boughs," looking forth upon the richness and beauty of an extensive landscape, can scarcely fail to breathe a wish that they themselves may repose hereafter amid such still and tranquil scenery.

We cannot, perhaps, better close this article than with the following poem on the cemetery of Père la Chaise, by the late Mr. David Carey, who died in the vigour of age and talent:

When, like-the fleeting forms that fled
       ln youth a fair morning from the view,
We sink on death's ungenial bed,
       And bid to life and lore adieu.

If aught that once with influence kind
       Could chase the mists of sorrow's gloom.
Can please the disembodied mind.
       And shed a pleasure o'er the tomb.

Tis when with sympathizing care
       Affection rears the votive bower,
And weeping Pity's daughters fair
       Trim the lone monumental flower.

As in the precincts of La Chaise,
      The hands of beauty nurse the wreath
That spreads the bloom of vernal days
      O'er the cold sanctuary of death.

If aught of consolation sweet
       Can mingle with the cup of woe,
When, far from each belovd retreat,
       Fate lays the hapless stranger low;

'Tis that his ashes may repose
       In peace, where those we love are laid,
Where death has never paled the rose,
       And tears of piety are shed.

How sweet to him, when passion's past,
       Whose tows were paid at beauty's shrine,
To sleep where Abelard at last,
      And his lov'd Heloise entwined.

How sweet to those whose generous breast
       Was form’d in nature's school to feel,
In the Elysium of the blest.
       To sleep with virtue and Delille!

And such thy scene of lasting sleep.
       So tranquil and so hallow'd now,
La Chaise ! where once in vengeance deep     
       Dark persecution breath'd his vow.

Where superstition banish'd far
       Sweet love and mercy from the ground,
Benignant pity's milder star      
       A holier feeling spreads around.

Here oft o'er lost affections' bier,
       The mother and the lover bend,
To dress with many a flower and tear
     The cherish’d child, the parted friend

Here, side by side, in flowery graves,
       The Russian and the Spaniard lie,
And peace immortal olive waves
       O'er warring nations enmity.

Then mourn not, stranger, though thy doom
       Be sorrow's lot, and brief thy days—
If joy can penetrate the tomb,
       Thou'It find it here—in Père la Chaise!