Burial in Paris

Four guides to Paris Cemeteries

For the casual traveler to Paris one of the standard travel guides will usually suffice for getting around Pere-Lachaise or any of the other popular cemeteries in the city. and most usually offer a simple map with an itinerary -- and of course you can always pick up one of the official cemetery maps or, in the case of Pere-Lachaise, purchase one of the more detailed maps available near one of the main entrances.

But if you're looking for something different, something a bit more enlightening, consider one of these dedicated cemetery guides:

Guide des Cimetieres Parisiens by Jacques Barozzi (Editions Hervas 1990); French. somewhat dated with an infrequent inaccuracy, still this is a reasonably good overview of the major cemeteries in Paris. Arranged by cemetery and then division, with listings and information on notable burials; photos and maps for each cemetery discussed. Index of names

Unexplored Paris by Rodolphe Troulleux and Jacques Lebar, revised edition (Parisgramme 2009); English. OK so this isn't strictly a cemetery guide per se, but what a wonderful book. Aside from serving as a handy guide to 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 oddly arranged by alphabet but then not alphabetical.  Hmmmm.

Le Cimetiere Montparnasse by Marie-Laure Pierard (De Boree 2009); French. Frankly I don't care much for the layout of this book. Although ostensibly arranged by division, in fact for some odd reason the author jumps all around in her discussion of the major burials in each division. Poor reprint of the official cemetery map, which is not terribly useful. Index lists only the division number and not the page; a bit awkward I thought. Having said all that, to the best of my knowledge this is the only recent guide to Montparnasse, a cemetery worth a long stroll if not a lengthy visit in its own right.

Guide des Curiosites Funeraires a Paris by Anne-Marie Minvielle (Parisgramme 2008); French. Subititled Cimetieres, Eglises et Lieux de Memoire, this is another handy little volume to stuff in your bag. Arranged by arrondissement you can either plunge right in or check out the handy little table of contents at the front of the book for a more detailed itinerary. Very nice photographs (Minvielle is a professional photographer as well as a journalist) and the maps are well-executed. With appendices (annexes) that include a glossary of terms, a bibliography and glory be! an index of tombs listed in the book. How cool is that?!

While this is not mean to be an exhaustive list, it should help the serious cemetery tourist to discover some of the more unusual treasures awaiting them in the cemeteries of Paris.

Want to be buried in Paris?

I received an inquiry recently from someone whose mother had expressed a wish to someday be buried in Paris:

My Mother is elderly and we talked about her wishes for funeral arrangements. As we have visited Paris several times over the years and I know she has a fondness for the city I suggested it would be nice if her remains (ashes) could be interned at a cemetery in Paris I don't know if this is possible as she has never been an inhabitant of France.Do you know if this would be possible? and if so do you know who we would need to contact to make any future arrangements.

An intriguing question indeed. I asked my friend Marie, one of the founders of the Friends of Pere-Lachaise,  if such a thing was possible.  This was her reply:

Unfortunately, the rules to be buried in a Paris cemetery are rather strict: people may be buried in one of these cemeteries if (and only if) they die in the French capital city or if they lived there. Being buried in Pere-Lachaise is even more difficult nowadays as there is a waiting list: very few plots are available.However, I suppose ashes could be scattered in PL's Garden of Remembrance. You should write to the following address:

8, boulevard de Ménilmontant
75020 Paris

(photo above: Lewin family in division 93, directly across from Oscar Wilde's well-visited gravesite in division 89. Curiously, most people don't even notice this dramatic bit of humanity.)