One of the most interesting places to visit while in Paris is definetely Père Lachaise – probably the most famous cemetery in the world. You can spend hours there searching for the graves of famous people and enjoy the tranquility so tipical for such places. Here is a list of some of the graves you don’t want to miss.
1. Oscar Wilde
The tomb of Oscar Wilde, a controversial work by the sculptor Jacob Epstein, was severely criticised for being too sexualised for public consumption. The testicles were removed in an act of vandalism in 1961. Today a thick glass protects the tomb from admirers’ kisses. Lipstick marks can still be seen on the glass next to which a notice asks people to respect the memorial as Wilde’s family will have to cover the costs for cleaning it.
2. Jim Morrison
The most visited grave in the cemetery, which though quite modest, will be very easy to find, is this of Jim Morrison. Just look for a crowd of people listening to The Doors, or having a philisophical discussion in a loud voice. There was once a bust of Morrison, which vandals claimed as their own. Now his tombstone and the graves next to it are protected by metal barricades to limit the access of overenthusiastic fans.
3. Allan Kardec
One of my favorite graves is this of Allan Kardec, the founder of spiritism, whose tomb is surrounded by blooming flowers. “To be born, die, again be reborn, and so progress unceasingly, such is the law” reads the inscription on the grave.
4. Victor Noir
Best known for the way he died rather than the way he lived, Victor Noir was a French journalist who was shot dead by Prince Pierre Bonaparte (the nephew of Napoleon III). The editor of the newspaper Noir was working for at the time, Paschal Grousset, had been challenged to a duel by Prince Pierre Bonaparte after the publication of a not very flatering article about the prince’s great uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte. Grousset accepted and dispatched his seconds (one of whom was Noir) to arrange a time and a date with Prince Pierre, what resulted in Noir’s death.
What draws people to his final resting place is his monument. It is believed that if a woman kisses Noir on the lips and then rubs the bulge in his trousers, she will soon have a baby, or in case she is single, she will find a husband within one year. Visitors thank Victor by placing a flower in his hand or hat.
5. Amedeo Modigliani
One of my favourite painters, Modigliani was also burried in Père Lachaise. His grave can take some time to find, as it is not so popular among tourists. I was lucky there was a guide who saw me looking at the names on the graves in the area and started shouting at me “Here, here” pointing at Modigliani’s grave.
6. Georges Bizet
The famous composer’s grave is situated between big tombs and therefore can easily be overlooked. Some years ago Bizet’s together with five other busts were stolen from the cemetery.
7. Edith Piaf
One of the most visited graves in the cemetery, Piaf’s final resting place is covered with flowers and attracts crowds of admirers.
8. Frederic Chopin
If you see the beautiful statue of Euterpe, the Greek muse of music, then you have found the grave of Chopin.
9. Abelard and Heloise
This is the tomb of the tragic love. Peter Abelard was a French philosopher, considered one of the greatest thinkers of the 12th century. He fell in love with his student – the much younger Heloise, who was one of the most well-educated women of her time. After she gave birth to their child they got secretly married. Once Heloise’s uncle found out, he sent his men to castrate Abelard. He then became a monk, Heloise a nun and they lived separated in different monasteries for the rest of their lives, corresponding through letters.
10. Honoré de Balzac
The founder of the realistic school in French literature, Balzac is famous for his nearly 100 novels and novellas which form “The Human Comedy”.
In case you are enjoying a walk without a tiurist guide, then you might want to have the map printed in advance. You can download it here.