I have to rest my knee today after yesterday’s shopping spree. (See previous posts) When I mentioned to the perfumer that I wanted to go to Père LaChaise Cemetery, he warned me it was not very level and down right steep in some areas. So today Baby Bear and Papa Bear are off to see one of the famous cemeteries of the world without me!
The cemetery is named after Father Francois de la Chaise, (1624-1709) the confessor to Louis XIV, who lived in the Jesuit house that was on the property at one time. The sight opened as a cemetery on May 21, 1804 with the burial of a five year old child. That first year only thirteen people were buried here because it was felt the cemetery was too far from Paris. Also, Catholics would not be buried here because the Catholic Church had not blessed it. Later in 1804, with great fanfare, the decision was made to transfer the remains of Jean de La Fontaine (poet) and Molière (actor/writer), seen as rock stars in their day, to the cemetery. Again in 1817, the purported remains of Abélard (philosopher) and Héloise d’Argenteuil (his lover) were also transferred with their monument’s canopy made from fragments of an abbey. This strategy led to the desired results: people were determined to be buried among the famous citizens. The famous and wealthy people buried here would try to out do each other, even in death, with beautiful burial chambers, most the size of a phone booth, but some very extravagant. Père Lachaise was expanded five times and today over one million bodies are buried here in 110 acres. Many, many more are in the columbarium, which holds the remains of those who have requested cremation.
Today, strict rules apply to be buried in the cemetery. To be buried here one must have died in Paris or lived there. Also there are 50, 30 and 10 year leases on the burial sites. After the lease is up the remains are removed and placed in Aux Morts, (to the Dead) an ossuary, similar to the famous catacomb sights. When the ossuary is full, the bones are cremated and then returned to the sight. I wanted to see the graves of Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, and Oscar Wilde. A roster of all the famous people buried here can be found on the internet. I would suggest taking a map of the cemetery with you or download the Maplet of Père Lachaise Cemetery (Maplets App) on your IPhone as we had. After all there are 110 acres to explore and Papa Bear acknowledged it is very steep and uneven with forest like ledges in some areas. Also note, that at 4pm in the winter, bell ringers ringing old fashioned school bells, walk the cemetery to announce that the cemetery closes at 5pm. You do not want to be locked in the cemetery left to scale a 20 foot gate! I hope you enjoy the video!