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Père Lachaise Cemetery

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Père Lachaise Cemetery

Cimetière du Père-Lachaise
Père Lachaise Cemetery is located in Paris
Père Lachaise Cemetery
Year established 1804
Location Paris
Country France
Type Public, non-denominational
Size 44 hectares (110 acres)
Number of interments Over one million
Find a Grave 639018

Père Lachaise Cemetery (French: Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, ; formerly, cimetière de l'Est, "East Cemetery") is the largest cemetery in the city of Paris (44 hectares or 110 acres),[1] though there are larger cemeteries in the city's suburbs.

Père Lachaise is in the 20th arrondissement and is notable for being the first garden cemetery, as well as the first municipal cemetery.[2] It is also the site of three World War I memorials.

The cemetery is on Boulevard de Ménilmontant. The Paris Métro station Philippe Auguste on line 2 is next to the main entrance, while the station called Père Lachaise, on both lines 2 and 3, is 500 metres away near a side entrance. Many tourists prefer the Gambetta station on line 3, as it allows them to enter near the tomb of Oscar Wilde and then walk downhill to visit the rest of the cemetery.

History and description


The cemetery takes its name from the confessor to Louis XIV, Père François de la Chaise (1624–1709), who lived in the Jesuit house rebuilt in 1682 on the site of the chapel. The property, situated on the hillside from which the king watched skirmishing between the Condé and Turenne during the Fronde, was bought by the city in 1804. Established by Napoleon in this year, the cemetery was laid out by Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart and later extended.

As the city graveyards of Paris filled, several new, large cemeteries, outside the precincts of the capital, replaced them: Montmartre Cemetery in the north, Père Lachaise in the east, and Montparnasse Cemetery in the south. At the heart of the city, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, is Passy Cemetery.

Père Lachaise Cemetery was opened on 21 May 1804. The first person buried there was a five-year-old girl named Adélaïde Paillard de Villeneuve, the daughter of a door bell-boy of the Faubourg St. Antoine. Her grave no longer exists as the plot was a temporary concession. Napoleon, who had been proclaimed Emperor by the Senate three days earlier, had declared during the Consulate that "Every citizen has the right to be buried regardless of race or religion".[3]

At the time of its opening, the cemetery was considered to be situated too far from the city and attracted few funerals. Moreover, many Jean de La Fontaine and Molière. The following year there were 44 burials, with 49 in 1806, 62 in 1807 and 833 in 1812. Then, in another great spectacle in 1817, the purported[4] remains of Pierre Abélard and Héloïse d'Argenteuil were also transferred to the cemetery with their monument's canopy made from fragments of the abbey of Nogent-sur-Seine (by tradition, lovers or lovelorn singles leave letters at the crypt in tribute to the couple or in hope of finding true love).

This strategy achieved its desired effect: people began clamouring to be buried among the famous citizens. Records show that, within a few years, Père Lachaise went from containing a few dozen permanent residents to more than 33,000 in 1830. Père Lachaise was expanded five times: in 1824, 1829, 1832, 1842 and 1850. Today there are over 1 million bodies buried there, and many more in the columbarium, which holds the remains of those who had requested cremation.[5]

The Communards' Wall (Mur des Fédérés) is also located in the cemetery. This is the site where 147 Communards, the last defenders of the workers' district of Belleville, were shot on 28 May 1871 – the last day of the "Bloody Week" (Semaine Sanglante) in which the Paris Commune was crushed.

The Crematorium and Columbarium

A funerary chapel was erected in 1823 by Étienne-Hippolyte Godde at the exact place of the ancient Jesuit house. This same Neoclassical architect created the monumental entrance a few years later.

A columbarium and a crematorium of a Neo-Byzantine style were designed in 1894 by Jean-Camille Formigé.

Cemetery today

Looking down the hill at Père Lachaise

Père Lachaise is still an operating cemetery and accepting new burials. However, the rules to be buried in a Paris cemetery are rather strict: people may be buried in one of these cemeteries if they die in the French capital city or if they lived there. Being buried in Père Lachaise is even more difficult nowadays as there is a waiting list: very few plots are available.[6] The gravesites at Père Lachaise range from a simple, unadorned headstone to towering monuments and even elaborate mini chapels dedicated to the memory of a well-known person or family. Many of the tombs are about the size and shape of a telephone booth, with just enough space for a mourner to step inside, kneel to say a prayer, and leave some flowers.

The cemetery manages to squeeze an increasing number of bodies into a finite and already crowded space. One way it does this is by combining the remains of multiple family members in the same grave. At Père Lachaise, it is not uncommon to reopen a grave after a body has decomposed and inter another coffin. Some family mausoleums or multi-family tombs contain dozens of bodies, often in several separate but contiguous graves. Shelves are usually fitted out to accommodate them.

In relatively recent times, Père Lachaise has adopted a standard practice of issuing 30-year leases on gravesites, so that if a lease is not renewed by the family, the remains can be removed, space made for a new grave, and the overall deterioration of the cemetery minimized. Abandoned remains are boxed, tagged and moved to Aux Morts ossuary, in Père Lachaise cemetery.[7]

Plots can be bought in perpetuity, for 50, 30 or 10 years, the last being the least expensive option. Even in the case of mausoleums and chapels, coffins are most of the time below ground.

Although some sources incorrectly estimate the number of interred as 300,000 in Père Lachaise, according to official website of the city of Paris, one million people have been buried there to date.[5] Along with the stored remains in the Aux Morts ossuary, the number of human remains exceeds 2–3 million.

Aux Morts ossuary

Behind the Aux Morts (To the Dead) monument sculpted by Paul Albert Bartholomé lies an ossuary of the bones of Parisians from cemeteries all over the city, a smaller kind of modern day catacombs. Although the monument is well known, it is not general knowledge that it is also an ossuary, and its doors usually remain closed and locked to the public. When it became overcrowded recently, the bones were removed for cremation and returned to the ossuary after the incineration process. In the Père Lachaise ossuary, efforts are made to store bones and ashes in separate boxes.[8]


Among those interred here are:


Grave of François Arago


Grave of Sarah Bernhardt



Cremated remains of Isadora Duncan in the Columbarium


Grave of Paul Éluard


Grave of Joseph Fourier



Samuel Hahnemann's mausoleum






Grave of Jim Morrison
Grave of Joachim Murat
Grave of Alfred de Musset


Andranik Ozanian's grave and statue, erected in 1945


Grave of Édith Piaf



Le Silence (1842) by Antoine-Augustin Préault


Grave of Louis Suchet
Graves of Fattah Abdoli, Dr.Sadegh Sharafkandi et Homayoun Ardalan, three victims of the Mykonos assassination attempt.




Grave of Louis Visconti
  • Émile Waldteufel – French composer
  • Countess Marie Walewska – Napoleon's mistress, credited for pressing Napoleon to take important pro-Polish decisions during the Napoleonic Wars. Only her heart is entombed here, in the tomb of the d'Ornano family ; her other remains were returned to her native Poland.
  • Sir Richard Wallace – English art collector and philanthropist
  • Eduard WiiraltEstonian artist
  • Oscar Wilde – Irish novelist, poet and playwright. By tradition, Wilde's admirers kiss the Art Deco monument while wearing red lipstick, though this practice will no longer be allowed because of the damage it has caused to his tomb, which had to be repaired and encased in glass.[16] Wilde died in 1900 and was initially buried in the Cimetière de Bagneux. His remains were transferred in 1909 to Père Lachaise. The tomb is also the resting place of the ashes of Robert Ross, who commissioned the monument.
  • Jeanette Wohl – French literary editor, longtime friend and correspondent of Ludwig Börne
  • Richard Wright – American author, wrote Native Son and other American classics


See also



  1. ^ "Cimetière du Père-Lachaise", The New York Times travel article
  2. ^ "Burial Grounds." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Ed. William A. Darity, Jr. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2008. 392-393. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 27 Sept. 2013.
  3. ^ "The Cemetery of The Père-Lachaise". 
  4. ^ See Peter Abelard#Disputed resting place/lovers' pilgrimage for more on the dispute as to their burial site.
  5. ^ a b Mairie de Paris (27 April 2012). "Père-Lachaise cemetery". 
  6. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions about Paris Cemeteries". 
  7. ^ "Père-Lachaise Cemetery: Interesting Thing of the Day". 15 March 2005. 
  8. ^ Naked Barbies, Warrior Joes, and Other Forms of Visible Gender by Jeannie Banks Thomas
  9. ^ "French TV Animator Bruno Bianchi Passes Away".  
  10. ^ "Maurice Grimaud dies at 95; former Paris police chief". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. 24 July 2009. Retrieved 29 July 2009. 
  11. ^ Fishman, Margie (2 May 2014). "Designer Patrick Kelly celebrated in Philly exhibition". delawareonline (News Journal Media Group). Retrieved 2 September 2014. His headstone in the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris reads: "Nothing is impossible." 
  12. ^ Gillispie, C. C. (1997). Pierre Simon Laplace 1749–1827: A Life in Exact Science. Princeton University Press. p. 278.  
  13. ^ "Jim Morrison's Fans Keep His Fire Alight", The New York Times, 9 December 1993.
  14. ^ Jim Morrison at
  15. ^ The Rothschilds on the Ramat HaNadiv website
  16. ^ "Oscar Wilde's Tomb Will Allow No More Kisses (PHOTOS, VIDEO)". Huffington Post. 28 November 2011. 

External links

  • Père Lachaise Cemetery – virtual tour in French and English
  • Information and news about Père Lachaise in English
  • Information and news about Père Lachaise in English
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