Although the idea of visiting a place with many graves at first do not exactly interesting, the fact is there are cemeteries around the world that have become tourists’ favorite attraction. One of them is Cimetière du Père Lachaise. Père Lachaise Cemetery or Cimetière du Père Lachaise is the largest cemetery in Paris at 44 hectares. It is located in 20th arrondissement and with hundreds of thousands visitors every year, the cemetery is recorded as the most visited cemetery in the world.
Cimetière du Père Lachaise: History
The name of the cemetery “Père Lachaise” is taken from Louis XIV’s confessor who live in a rebuilt Jesuit house in 1682 on the land where the cemetery is now located. It was Napoleon who made the area to be a cemetery after the city bought it in 1804. The design was firstly done by Alexandre-Theodore Brongniart. The cemetery was opened for public on May 24, 1804 and it was extended later.
The first to bury in the cemetery was Adélaïde Pailliard de Villeneuve, a five-year-old girl who was a daughter of the Faubourg St. Antoine’s door-bell. It was Napoleon himself who declared that everyone without exception had the right to be buried in the cemetery.
The interesting thing was, Cimetière du Père Lachaise did not attract many people to bury their relatives there. This was due to the fact that the location of Cimetière du Père Lachaise was too far from the city. The land where it stood was also not yet blessed by the church so Roman Catholics minded to bury their relatives there. This lack of interest made Cimetière du Père Lachaise only had 13 graves in its first year.
To promote the cemetery, the administrator organized the movings of La Fontaine and Molière’s remains. The campaign showed result and in 1817, Pierre Abèland and Hèloise’s remains were also transferred there. Since then, more and more people wanted to be buried among those famous citizens. In 1830, there were already over 33,000 residents buried in the cemetery.
Père Lachaise Cemetery Today
Today, there are over than a million bodies buried in Cimetière du Père Lachaise. There is also a columbarium for cremated bodies. The columbarium and the cremation house was built in 1894 and designed by Jean Camille Formigé. They were designed in a Neo-Byzantine style.
Another popular site in Cimetière du Père Lachaise is Mur des Fédérés or the Communards’ Wall. Mur des Fédérés is a monument which was built to commemorate the 147 Communards who were shot on May 28, 1971 on the last day of “Bloody Week”.
Although there are already more than one mollion bodies in the cemetery, Cimetière du Père Lachaise is still taking in new bodies. Yet, of course, the rules are stricter then they used to be. To be buried in Cimetière du Père Lachaise, a body must died in Paris or was a Parisian. Only few plots are available so there is even a waiting list. One of the tricks to squeeze more bodies into the cemetery is by combining remains of same family members into one grave.
The cemetery’s administrative also has the right to remove remains of graves which are not renewed after 30 years. These abandoned remains will be put into Aux Morts ossuary in tagged boxes. With remains stored in Aux Morts, there are estimated 2 to 3 millions of human remains in Cimetière du Père Lachaise.
Here is the list of some famous people buried in Cimetière du Père Lachaise.
Sophie Blanchard – first professional female balloonist and the first woman to die in an aviation accident
Claude Chappe – French pioneer of the telegraph
Frédéric Chopin – Polish composer. His heart is entombed within a pillar at the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw.
Auguste Comte – French thinker; father of Positivism
Isadora Duncan – American dancer
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres – French painter
Jim Morrison – American singer and songwriter with The Doors, author, and poet.
Édith Piaf – French singer
Sir Richard Wallace – English art collector and philanthropist
Visiting Cimetière du Père Lachaise
To reach Cimetière du Père Lachaise, you can take Metro to Philippe Auguste station on line 2 or Père Lachaise station on line 2 or 3. Philippe Auguste station will take you to the main entrance of the cemetery and Père Lachaise station is only 500 meters away from the side entrance. However, tourists’ favorite is the Gambetta station line 3 which allows them to go directly from Oscar Wilde’s tomb.
16th March through to first week in November
Monday to Friday: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Saturday: 8.30 am – 6.00 pm
Sunday: 9.00 am – 6.00 pm
Second week in November to 15th March
Monday to Friday: 8:00 am – 5:30 pm
Saturday: 8.30 am – 5:30 pm
Sunday: 9.00 am – 5:30 pm