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The mother of all cemeteries...
Pére Lachaise

Père Lachaise Cemetery, in downtown Paris, France, opened for business in May 1804 on the orders of Napoleon, who rose to the heights of emperor the same week. The burying ground, built on the site of a former Jesuit house, was the first garden cemetery in the world, and became the inspiration for the grand Victorian graveyards of London and then the ornamental burying grounds of north America.
The famous Parisian cemetery is now a favourite haunt of tourists, who queue to plant a flower on the grave of Jim Morrison, The Doors’ singer, or a kiss on the marble memorial to Oscar Wilde, the Anglo-Irish playwright and wit.
From weeping women to the dead bursting out of their stone prisons, from sleeping beauties to bronze corpses, Père Lachiase has them all. Acre after acre, street after street, grand mausoleums, smaller family tombs, works of art and humble headstones all compete for the visitor’s eye. It is the grandest cathedral to the cult of death in the world.
Père Lachaise is truly a city of the dead, a city with streets and pavements, street signs, pavements, mausoleums like small houses, set back from the roadway as if there should be a garden or car parking space in front. The city, just like Paris, is divided into arrondisments, and every street-side grave has its own address.
The famous have flocked, in death, to Père Lachaise. As well as the famous foreigners Morrison and Wilde, there are scores of Gallic celebrities here, including novelists Marcel Proust, Colette and Honore de Balzac, composers Frederic Chopin, Georges Bizet and Paul Dukas, and artists Camille Pissarro, Theodore Gericault and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.
Below we highlight some of the graves from our article.
Weeping Widow
The distraught sculpted figure of the widow weeping on the grave of her lost husband is a common sight in Père Lachaise. This particular one is almost anonymous, perched on the grave of a man who never knew fame or fortune. But, however humble, this monument is one of the thousands that make the cemetery the greatest open-air art gallery in the world.
Victim Victor
This life-sized bronze statue commemorates Victor Noir, a journalist who dared to criticise Pierre Bonaparte, the cousin of Napoleon III. In return, Pierre shot the poor scribe. There is a legend that young wives, desperate to become pregnant, need only rub a certain part of his anatomy. Even today, that part of the statue is shiny, and his top hat contains prayers for pregnancy and letters of love.
Bronze Breakout
Georges Rodenbach, a solicitor who became much better known as a poet, has one of the most startling monuments in the cemetery. His bronze body bursts through the heavy granite sarcophagus, offering a rose to the startled passer-by.
Sound Sleeper
Elisa Hodgson, Vicomt de Beauchesne, embodies the nineteenth century euphemism “not dead, just sleeping”, in life-like white marble. Unlike the violent and ghoulish images of death seen in medieval churchyards, cemeteries are home to much more indirect symbolism, including finely-carved sleeping beauties.
Article exract taken from Bite me Magazine 17
Other articles taken from Bite me Magazine...
Dracula Unearthed
Interview with the Gothic Cryptozoologist
Lastly with Tina Rath
Gothic Goddess Jane Goldman
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