My fascination with cemeteries and burial sites can be dated back decades, maybe over 30 years. I have always found them intriguing, and not at all scary or macabre. The expression of how someone is buried from the tombs, headstones, and inscriptions are an integral part of being human, and how we handle grief of loved ones. It can be a loving last sentiment to remember, memorialize, and to visit those who have passed.
In my travels to almost 50 countries, I have always found myself exploring a cemetery, necropolis, tombs or an ancient burial site. All have been extraordinary in their own unique way.
There is stunning necropolis in Paris, which I consider one for the books- the Père Lachaise Cemetery.
I had initially come to the Père Lachaise Cemetery to pay respects to two famous individuals who are laid to rest here- Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde. Although I totally missed Chopin’s grave (his heart was sent to Warsaw, Poland), I found both Morrison’s and Wilde’s graves rather easily.
In fact, I had jumped the small fence that surrounded Jim Morrison’s headstone in order to get as close to this American musical genius as possible. While swinging my leg over the black metal gate, I quoted Morrison “Break on through to the other side!” The Doors have always been influential to me as a music lover and Southern Californian. There was no question in my mind to climb that fence on a chilly early morning in Paris. I had one friend look out for security, while the other snapped my photo. I am sure you would have done the same!
The Oscar Wilde tomb was just so very Oscar Wilde, from the phallic Sphynx to the lipstick kiss marks. If you are not familiar with Oscar Wilde, he was an Irish Poet and playwright throughout the late 1800s, who became one of London’s most popular. He is best known for his novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, as well as a criminal conviction of a consensual homosexual act. This lead to one of the first celebrity trials, imprisonment, and his early death at 46 from meningitis.
The tomb of Oscar Wilde is surrounded by a clear glass barrier to protect it from vandalism, particularly lipstick kiss marks. For years the tradition of kissing the tomb with lipstick caused permanent damage, as the fats from the cosmetics sunk into the stone. The tomb is a work of art, and was well thought through by its designers. Please do not kiss it no matter how tempting it is- says the girl who jumped the fence of Jim Morrison’s gravesite!
The Père Lachaise Cemetery is an excellent example of a Necropolis and is my favorite, with my second being the Necropolis in Glasgow, Scotland. It is located in the 20th arrondissement of Paris being the first garden cemetery, and the first municipal cemetery in Paris.
The cemetery first broke ground in 1804, and was the start of a movement of burying regardless of race or religion, instead of relying on the church to bury the dead. It was a cemetery that was established by Napoleon, who had declared during the Consulate that “Every citizen has the right to be buried regardless of race or religion”.
The tombs and gravesites of the Père Lachaise Cemetery are the most fascinating component to this necropolis. They can be as simple as Jim Morrison’s headstone, to the elaborate with sculptures, and tombs with gothic doorways. There are also several memorials and monuments that are dedicated to past wars and catastrophic events.
The Père Lachaise Cemetery is the most visited necropolis in the world with 3.5 million visitors annually, apparently I am not the only one who is fascinated with cemeteries. It may not be on everyone’s Paris to-do list but this cemetery is an important part of Paris’s history, and would be a shame to be overlooked.
Plus a visit to Jim Morrison’s grave can be quite a memory, whether you jump the fence or not!
For visiting information, please visit- The Père Lachaise Cemetery
To find a grave- Cimetière du Père Lachaise
Death makes angels of us all and gives us wings where we had shoulders as smooth as ravens claws…– Jim Morrison
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📸 All photos are taken by me and are my intellectual property – Trixie Navarre
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