It might seem a little bit odd to spend an afternoon walking around a cemetery in Paris, but some of them are like visiting a real open-air museum that houses many architectural and sculptural works of funerary art. And that is the case with the Pere Lachaise cemetery. With more than 3.5 million visitors every year, this cemetery is probably the most visited in the world. Many famous people artists, musicians, writers, soldiers and statesmen are interred here. So, don’t be surprised to see the hordes of tourists surrounding the Jim Morrison or Oskar Wilde’s tombstones.
Opened in 1804 and situated in the east of Paris, the Pere Lachaise cemetery is named after François de la Chaise (1624 – 1709), a French priest, the father confessor of King Louis XIV of France. It was the first Parisian garden and municipal cemetery, but at the time of its opening, it was not that popular among the Parisians. After the transfer of the remains of the French writers La Fontaine and Moliere, organized with great fanfare, the situation changed. Today, being buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery is very difficult, as there is a waiting list. This cemetery was even expanded five times in 1824, 1829, 1832, 1842 and 1850. Its 70,000 burial plots are made in all funerary art styles from the Haussmannian vaults, gothic tombs, antique mausoleums to the neoclassical sculptures.
Jim Morrison’s grave is probably the most visited in the Pere Lachaise cemetery. After Morrison died in 1971 in Paris, he was buried in a rather simple grave. Many visitors leave the gifts on Morrison’s grave and even write poems. A bust of Morrison placed on his gravestone was even stolen. But nothing less popular is the Oscar Wild’s grave. Created by the American-British sculptor Jacob Epstein, this grave was covered in lipstick. The visitors would kiss the tomb after applying lipstick to their mouth and leave a “print” of their kiss. But in 2011, a glass barrier was erected to prevent this practice. The epitaph on this grave is a verse from “The ballad of reading gaol” by Wilde. Other notables were also buried here, such as composer Chopin, poet Apollinaire, writers Balzac, Proust and Colette or singer Édith Piaf, actor Yves Montand, painter Pissarro, dancer Isadora Duncan and many others. At the entrances of the cemetery, the visitors will find the maps pointing towards the most famous graves.
The Père Lachaise cemetery is open from November to mid-March from 8 am to 5.30 pm and from mid-March to October from 8 am to 6 pm. The entrance to the cemetery is free of charge. The guided tours in English and French are organized every weekend.
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