Opened in 1804, Père Lachaise Cemetery is the largest in Paris, covering approximately 110 acres. It’s a beautiful spot, surrounded by gorgeous greenery and history.
The cemetery is “technically” full. However. burials still happen here. In order to be buried at Père Lachaise, you have to be a) Parisian or B) Have died in Paris. There are over 2 million people buried here.
You can be buried here regardless of race or religion, but that was not always the case. In the 1,800’s, non-Catholics, the poor, excommunicated folks and actors, were not allowed to rest on the holy ground.
There are many famous people buried here, including Edith Piaf, Gertrude Stein, Chopin, and of course, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison.
Oscar Wilde died at 46 years old of cerebral meningitis. However, He was not originally buried here. His friend and former lover, Robbie Ross (who was also a Canadian), commissioned the monument for him and is ashes are also buried alongside Wilde’s remains. Rumour has it that the statue’s male endowments were too much for the cemetery staff, so they removed the male genitalia – rumor goes it was kept as a paperweight in the cemetery office.
A young Political journalist, cut in his prime by being shot in the chest. His tomb has become a tad of a fertility symbol. As you can see, his manhood has been shined to a fine polish. The legend goes that if you want to get pregnant – you rub it, put a flower in the hat and within a year you’ll be with child. It must be true, at the time of my visit, there was a tiny pink baby bootie inside of the hat as well.
Another famous grave is the one of Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors who died in Paris at the age of 27. His grave was unmarked for 10 years before his father paid for a tombstone. It also had a bust of Morrison, but it was vandalized so badly, it had to be removed. The Greek inscription ΚΑΤΑ ΤΟΝ ΔΑΙΜΟΝΑ ΕΑΥΤΟ is translated “to each his own demon” – very fitting if you ask me.
Frederic Chopin is also buried here. His gravestone is usually adorned with bunches of flowers as the Greek muse of music weeps over his grave. He died at 39, after a long battle with lung disease. He begged his sister that when he died to open his chest and take his heart out for burial back in his homeland, Poland.
Miguel Ángel Asturias is the only Guatemalan buried here. A Nobel Prize winner. Passionate about Mayan Culture, in 1925 he translated the sacred Mayan text Popol Vuh into Spanish. His grave holds a most impressive Mayan monument. He died in 1974.
The story of Abelard and Heloise has been compared to star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. Abelard, a 12th-century philosopher was 20 years older than Eloise. He was her tutor and they became lovers. Eloise became pregnant. The baby was raised by Abelard’s sister.
They did not want to be married because if you were married you couldn’t practice philosophy, which both loved. However, they were married at the insistence of her uncle; who in turn announced their marriage. Heloise denied the words of her uncle and went into hiding. The uncle enraged, hired thugs who castrated Abelard – he then became a monk and she became a nun. They were moved to Père Lachaise in 1817.
There are too many stories to count here at Père Lachaise. If you visit Paris, this is a must stop.