Père Lachaise Cemetery

Paris, France

Père Lachaise Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Paris city. 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.

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'.

At the time of its opening, the cemetery was considered to be situated too far from the city and attracted few funerals. Moreover, many Roman Catholics refused to have their graves in a place that had not been blessed by the Church. In 1804, the Père Lachaise had contained only 13 graves. Consequently, the administrators devised a marketing strategy and in 1804, with great fanfare, organised the transfer of the remains of 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 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.

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. 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. Along with the stored remains in the Aux Morts ossuary, the number of human remains exceeds 2–3 million.

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.

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Address

Chemin Berthollé, Paris, France
See all sites in Paris

Details

Founded: 1804
Category: Cemeteries, mausoleums and burial places in France

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Swati Murteli (11 months ago)
Frankly , I was skeptical about going to a cemetery. But once I was there , my perspective changed. I haven't seen a cemetery so huge and beautiful. It's really huge.... And so sure it's difficult to cover the whole area. We spent around 3 hours. We randomly explored the place. But you can follow the map and explore the popular graves. The tomb stones and graves were so beautiful, so old. The oldest grave I saw was of the 17th century. Before visiting the place, I would recommend knowing the history of the place. Lots of benches to sit and relax. But don't forget to carry water bottle and snacks. There is a washroom at one of the gates.
Grant Donnelly (11 months ago)
We stopped by this cemetery because we were in the area. Admission was free and there was no wait. While not listed on the sign of famous people this is the resting place of Gertrude Stein. We visited her and Oscar Wilde which were both easy to find (they have gravesites facing the pedestrian walkway). This cemetery could use some up keep- lots of over grown weeds, dead flowers and broken gra sites but it is gorgeous in its own way. It is hilly- but there is a great view from the top. Definitely worth a visit!
Jo (12 months ago)
As cemetery’s go this is by far the best I’ve seen! Not that I’ve seen many!! The graves/tombs were a site to be seen. They were huge. Some like small houses. Some must have cost a fortune. The cemetery is huge too. You need good foot ware as the paths are all cobbles. On arrival we were given a map. We intended to find 1 certain grave Oscar Wild which we did. But also came across Fredrick Chopin and Jim Morrison. At these graves there were plenty of other people there looking. A good few hours out as the place was so big. Free and well worth a visit!
Valerie R.W (12 months ago)
Such a beautiful and peaceful place to wander around. We got to see Jim Morrison’s tomb, among so many others, and had a wonderful time exploring this huge cemetery. There are directions to guide visitors around, which are easy to follow, and many places to sit and rest. I love walking around graveyards as I feel they’re so full of history. Seeing all these beautiful graves surrounded by greenery also really challenges the idea of cemeteries being grim, dark places. This place is far from that. I really enjoyed my visit! ??
Cristian Garcia (14 months ago)
An excellent place to visit and learn from. There’s so many illustrious people here, from Edith Piaf, to Jim Morrison or Oscar Wilde. The place is massive, but there’s seating areas and toilets in several parts. I would advise to carry water if too warm, the cemetery is hilly and it can be tiring for some people. On and off, excellent outdoors activity
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