Tag Archives: cemetery

Bring out your Belgian dead!

Running out of place to bury people is never a good situation. In 1866, a cholera epidemic swept through Brussels and swiftly killed more than 3,000. Well, that was a bit of a problem. Quickly, the Cemetery of the Dieweg got created to palliate overflowing morgues.

Belgians being obviously deficient in cemetery planning affairs, the new death venue got rapidly saturated. After 1945, inhumations grew rare. In 1958, it closed down. Slowly, nature took over.

The crosses became one with the trees.

Ground cover swallowed the stones.

Sporadic light piercing through forests of trees gave the graveyard an eerie feel.

The neighbourhood of Uccle where the cemetery is located is home to most of Brussels bourgeoisie. Some of the tombs lie adorned with impressive monuments to the glory of the great families. Some say we are all equal in death but, I’m sorry, some tombs are way better than others.

On one hand, gigantic statues, on the other, little Jesus with no legs. Equality? Come again!

Walking around, you wonder whether you are experiencing the ultimate romantic interlude,

Or whether when you reach the end of the “Sematary”, you’ll stumble upon the “deadfall.”

While absolutely unable to deal with death on any levels, I dig cemeteries. The Dieweg graveyard falling into the category of crazy weirdness, it rates second on my top ten list. It is no wonder that Herge, Tintin’s creator, obtained a special derogation to be interred in the closed down venue.

It is only closed to the dead people, the living are most welcome to visit.

My dead are better than yours

Just like any restaurant, club, or bar, the popularity of a cemetery rests upon the fame of its clients. In this case, its dead people. The Pere Lachaise in Paris got off to a rough start. It was inaugurated in 1804 with the burial of Adelaide Paillard de Villeneuve, a five year old girl. Who? Exactly my point.

For years, the cemetery dwindled with an inhumation here, an inhumation there… until 1817 when in a brilliant marketing move, the Mayor of Paris relocated Moliere and Lafontaine to Pere Lachaise. Et voila! By 1830, it boasted more than 33,000 tombs.

Pere Lachaise stairs

Climbing the stairs of the entrance Boulevard de Menilmontant, I realize how American I have become. My first thought does not address the beauty of time passed, but rather crudely the need for good liability insurance.

Per Lachaise an alley

Taking a walk in Pere Lachaise constitute a wonderful reprieve from the city’s crowded parks. Peaceful and artsy. That’s the one place where you can safely shush a child who does not belong to you. Respect for the dead trumps exclusive parental rights.

Dilapidated tombs

Some tombs appear dilapidated. Some wrestle with precarious balance. It’s charming.

Pere Lachaise mausoleum

Ancient mausoleums still bear the signs of remembrance.

Tomb of frederic Chopin

Then of course, there is the mingling with the famous. Chopin in the above flowery tomb. Across from him, Laprade holding a very small bouquet in comparison. Not as well-liked I suppose.

Laprade

But the numero UNO reason why Americans all over the world know about Pere Lachaise is of course… The one and only Jim Morrison. Well, not to re-ignite the fire of resentment towards the French and spark a new freedom tomb controversy, but I surmise Jim Morrison got robbed.

Jim Morrison\'s tomb

Clearly. His tomb is lodged behind a mausoleum and wedged between two tombs. And what’s the point of being buried in Pere Lachaise if you don’t even have a commemorative statue adorning your place of respose? In all fairness, there was a bust but it was stolen in 1988. I opt for a life-size rendition. Preferably circa “young lion” years. With the leather pants s’il-vous-plait.