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.
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.
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.
Some tombs appear dilapidated. Some wrestle with precarious balance. It’s charming.
Ancient mausoleums still bear the signs of remembrance.
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.
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.
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.