Calvaire Cemetery - open today!

Today, All Saints Day, is one of the three days a year that the oldest cemetery in Paris is open to the public. (The other is Heritage Days, the 3rd weekend of September.)

Located adjacent to Saint Pierre church and just steps away from Sacre Coeur and Place du Tertre this space is a slice of Paris history just waiting to be enjoyed.

Opened in 1688, the tiny Calvaire is not only the oldest cemetery in Paris but undoubtedly the smallest as well. It’s 600 square meters holds some 85 graves. The cemetery was officially closed in 1831 when it was replaced by Saint-Vincent Cemetery.

One notable thing to be seen any time of year is the superb bronze door at the entrance created in 1980 by Italian sculptor Tommaso Gismondi.

Make your way to the Butte Montmartre — from Sacre Coeur walk around Rue Azais to Rue du Mont Cenis and the cemetery and church Saint-Pierre is on your right. Or, from Place du Tertre take Rue Norvins to Rue Mont Cenis, turn right and the cemetery is on your left.

One entrance on the north side of the small square in front of the ancient church of Saint-Pierre.



Calvaire cemetery in Montmartre

I took this photo at Calvaire cemetery, near Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, Paris, on November 1, 2006. The cemetery is only open this one day out of the year, All-Saints' Day, and there was a line of people wending their way through the tiny burial ground trying to connect with the distant past, trying to fathom these Parisians long-dead for several centuries. In fact Calvaire is one of the two remaining church burial grounds left inside historic Paris, that is, inside the 20 arrondissements. (The other is Charonne in the 20th arr.) Shortly before the revolution in 1789 the king ordered all the church burial grounds closed (for health reasons) and the remains removed to what is now the famous catacombs in Montparnasse, in the southern section of the city.

For some reason, only Calvaire and Charonne were left undisturbed, more or less.

Anyway, following the closure of the old church burial grounds the city began creating cemeteries to the east (Pere Lachaise), south (Montparnasse) and north (Montmartre) to provide a more tidy and elegant repository for the remains of Paris' "departed."

A corner in Calvaire

One of the last two ancient church burying grounds left inside historic Paris, Calvaire cemetery is located on the heights of Montmartre, just a stone's throw from Sacre Coeur.

The cemetery is open only one day a year, however, 1 November, All-Soul's Day.

The other old church burying ground? Charonne in the 20th arr. near Pere Lachaise.

This image is taken from a tiny corner in this very tiny cemetery.