Père Lachaise Cemetery.  in Paris, France

Père Lachaise Cemetery

in Paris, France

Cimetière du Père-Lachaise Photo © Geof Wilson

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Père Lachaise Cemetery

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The Père Lachaise Cemetery is located in the east of Paris – it was formerly called East Cemetery – and is the largest cemetery in the city. Situated in the twentieth arrondissement (Wikipedia
	Article), Père Lachaise is the first garden cemetery and one of the most famous burial grounds in the world. It is considered to be the most-visited cemetery anywhere on the planet. About one million people are buried there and two million people visit it every year.

Not only renowned Frenchmen are buried there, but also many of the world’s greatest people in literature, arts, and science. Examples are Oscar Wilde, Chopin; Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison; Pissarro, and Balzac.

History

The cemetery was named after Père François de la Chaise (Wikipedia Article), who lived in a Jesuit house that was built in 1682. He was the spiritual adviser of King Louis XIV, the Sun King. However, the cemetery was not laid out and constructed until 1804. It was then that Napoléon Bonaparte lifted the ban on large, urban burial grounds and ordered the construction of a large, new cemetery. The city graveyards were filling up and there was a need for bigger cemeteries on the outskirts of the city. Père Lachaise was the new burial ground in the east, Montmartre Cemetery in the north, and Montparnasse Cemetery in the south.

Père Lachaise Cemetery was opened on May 21, 1804. At the time, the cemetery was seen as too far from the city center and it took some time before it became popular among the Parisian residents. Only thirteen people were buried there in 1804. An actual marketing strategy was then created to attract more people to the cemetery, which involved transporting the remains of Molière and Jean de La Fountaine to Père Lachaise. The number of funerals increased and in 1817 the remains of Pierre Abélard and Héloïse d’Argenteuil were also transferred to the cemetery. The strategy worked and by 1830, more than 33,000 people had their final resting place there. It had become fashionable to be buried among the famous.

The cemetery has been expanded five times since its opening and now contains the remains of more than one million people.

Features

Highlights of Père Lachaise Cemetery, which covers no less than 106 acres, are countless sculptures, large tombs, monuments to the deceased, chapels, and beautifully decorated gravesites. Many wealthy Parisians rest there and they had the means to be buried in extravagantly decorated tombs and even mausoleums.

All those works of art are as interesting to see as the graves of all the famous people that are buried there. Père Lachaise is so big that is has streets, narrow tree-lined avenue, and feels like a small town.

Visiting Père Lachaise Cemetery

The Père Lachaise Cemetery is free to visit. Opening hours of all cemeteries in Paris are standardized. Cemeteries are open from November until mid-March from 8AM until 5.30PM from Monday through Friday, from 8.30AM until 5.30PM on Saturday, and from 9AM until 5.30PM on Sunday and holidays. Between mid-March and November, they can be visited from 8AM until 6PM from Monday through Friday, from 8.30AM until 6PM on Saturday, and from 9AM until 6PM on Sunday and holidays.

The cemetery has five entrances: two on Boulevard Menilmontant, one on Rue du Repos, one on Rue de la Reunion, and one on Rue des Rondeaux. The conservation office is located just inside the main entrance on Boulevard Menilmontant and has free copies of the Père Lachaise Cemetery guide maps. There are several toilet facilities through the cemetery.

The best way to visit Père Lachaise is by picking up a free map and walking around. Taking the time to admire the decorated monuments and graves is essential. Selecting the ones that you want to see is essential as well, as there are tens of thousands of monuments and hundreds of thousands of graves. Famous people that are buried there include Molière, Karel Appel; Oscar Wilde, Honoré de Balzac; Edith Piaf, Camille Pissarro; Gertrude Stein, Max Ernst; Chopin, Jim Morrison; Sarah Bernhardt, Colette; Marcel Proust, and Joseph Fourier, among many hundreds of others.

How to Get There

The Père Lachaise Cemetery can be reached by subway; there are three stations nearby. Gambetta station is reached on the M3 line and is the most popular station. Getting off there will allow visitors to enter the cemetery near the tomb of Oscar Wild and continue their walk downhill. The Philippe Auguste station is reached on the M2 line and lies next to the main entrance. The third station, Père Lachaise, is reached on both the M2 and M3 lines and lies 500 meters from a side entrance.

Similar and Nearby Landmarks

There are other major cemeteries in Paris that can be visited as well; examples are Montparnasse Cemetery (Wikipedia Article) and Montmarte Cemetery (Wikipedia Article).

Additional Parisian landmarks are The Louvre, the Notre-Dame de Paris, the Champs-Elysées, the Eiffel Tower, the Panthéon, and the Hôtel de Ville.

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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Dec 25, 2014

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