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.

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.

New Field Guide to Paris Cemeteries

In 2012 the official Paris city website reported that more than two million people visit Pere-Lachaise Cemetery.  TripAdvisor, one of the most popular travel websites, recently ranked Pere-Lachaise as the 30th most popular of 616 Paris attractions reported by reviewers. Yet the absence of an English-language guide to Paris cemeteries has been a serious gap in travel resources for the City of Light. 

The few English-language books on the subject have been either singularly focused on one cemetery or theme with little helpful information or self-indulgent exercises in how not to help travelers find their way through the maze of Parisian dead. In fact, not since 1986, when Judi Culbertson and Tom Randall produced their engaging but rather flawed Permanent Parisians, has anyone thought to write a serious work on the cemeteries of Paris. 

Until now. 

Doug Keister's Stories in Stone Paris: A Guide to Paris Cemeteries (Gibbs Smith 2013) is 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.

I first discovered Doug Keister's work on cemeteries in 2006 when I came across a friend's copy of Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography. It quickly became my primary resource whenever I had a question about the unusual, enlightening and often arcane symbols found on tombstones. Stories in Stone is one of those critical guidebooks that any serious cemetery traveler must have in her library. Keister's grasp of his subject was matched by his engaging writing style and thoroughness of research. 

Keister's initial field guide was followed up by the successful and equally fascinating Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to New York City Area Cemeteries & Their Residents. And now he has crossed the Atlantic to bring us his unique skill for finding the interesting and unusual in the cemeteries of Paris.   

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, very readable guide to the major Paris cemeteries. While one hopes to eventually see separate English-language guides to the Paris Big Three (Pere-Lachaise, Montparnasse and Montmartre), for the time being this work must be the English-language resource of record.

(Disclaimer: this reviewer is listed as a resource in Keister's Stories in Stone Paris: A Guide to Paris Cemeteries. He makes no apologies, however, knowing first-hand that Keister remains committed to being as accurate, helpful and informative as possible.)

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.

Do NOT Buy this "guide" to Pere Lachaise

As one who has spent hundreds of hours documenting the funerary sculpture and stories in Pere Lachaise Cemetery I was excited when I heard there was a new guide, in English, of the cemetery. After locating the website, I emailed asking for review copies of the book, titled Meet Me at Pere Lachaise, and the audio tour CD, both of which the authors provided free of charge. Unfortunately, right away I could see there were serious problems. Aside from the authors’ claim (on their business cards and on the website) that their book is the only guide to Pere Lachaise (not true), both the “guide” and CD suffer from several fundamental flaws.

At a slim 102 pages overall, with many of the pages taken up by photos, it’s terribly short. More to the point, the map is inaccurate, the mistakes indicate the authors are only superficially and vaguely familiar with the cemetery, the authors perpetuate at least one urban myth and some of the directions seem unnecessarily complicated (see, e.g., p. 55).

Overall the “book” struck me as little more than a string of blog posts cobbled together with some very nice photos but unfortunately backed up by very little serious research. You’ll learn nothing new or insightful about Pere Lachaise or anyone buried there that you couldn’t find on Wikipedia, or any number of other easily accessible websites.

Even the audio CD is if little value: it provides no tour guidance, no discussion of the cemetery and is little more than a string of podcasts (some running less than a minute) about the 31 people covered by the very slim book. Each “podcast” costs a whopping 99 cents. Lacking on-site directions this is simply not worth the money.

The perplexing thing for me is how could such basic mistakes be made by people purporting to be experts on Pere Lachaise?

Since this appears to be an on-demand publication through one of Amazon’s subsidiaries (CreateSpace, I believe), you might see the following errors/mistakes corrected. One would hope so.

p. 4, Map – as you’re looking at the map, the Garden of Remembrance is actually to the right of the entrance, as you enter, not on the left as shown. The WC is located where the arrow is pointing and yet is not even noted on the map. You’d do better by downloading the free PDF map from

P. 4 & 5 & 97– Sarah Bernhardt, no. 23, is actually in division 44, not division 91 as shown.

p. 5, Table of Contents - of 31 people listed, 3 are, in fact, not buried in Pere Lachaise: Rossini, Bellini, Callas. Granted, this is not a mistake, since the authors do make this fact clear. But one wonders, why include them? For example, Instead of Maria Callas why not include the famous American author Richard Wright, who IS buried in the Columbarium? or Stephane Grappelli for that matter?

p. 11 – The claim that 3rd-party maps are inaccurate is unsubstantiated. My experience has been that the Editions Metropolitan is an eminently reliable and much more useful than the terse and vague official map. Moreover, there are free maps online that cover the most visited sites, e.g., at

p. 13 – last line of the 2nd to last paragraph, “Theirs” should be “Thiers.” Simple mistake but another indicator of the sloppiness of the copyediting

p. 15 – there are in fact five entrances not three: Rondeaux, Reunion, Repos, Principale and the tiny corner entrance from the Pere Lachaise metro stop.

p. 25 – Bartholome was a sculptor and painter.

p. 55 – According to Arthur Machen, translator of Physiology of Taste, Brillat-Savarin often spelled his name Brillat de Savarin.

p. 96 – “Toke” from “Alice B. Toklas” – really? Another disturbing sloppiness in “fact-checking” here. A simple review of Merriam-Webster or the Collins dictionary would have dispelled such puerile nonsense.

We all make mistakes. Such simple mistakes in this book are simply unacceptable in anyone claiming to be a “tour guide.” And the rest of us shouldn’t have to pay for them.

If you’re looking for superficial fluff and don’t mind spending $24 bucks on little more than random musings about 28 people who just happen to coincidentally be buried in Pere Lachaise, then by all means this book is for you.

If, on the other hand, you want a reasonably useful guide to Pere Lachaise in English, check out Permanent Parisians by Culbertson and Randall. That book too has a few inaccuracies but the authors provide four different itineraries of Pere Lachaise with much more robust content and the maps are better.

Note: this review has also been published on