In the heart of Paris lies Europe’s largest cemetery: Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. Named for the Confessor to King Louis XIV – Père François de la Chaise – it occupies 119 acres and is well worth a stroll through on a sunny day.
Established and opened in 1804 by Napoleon, the cemetery was, at first, in an inconvenient spot for Parisians to travel to for funerals. A brilliant marketing scheme changed that when the remains of La Fontaine and Molière were transferred to the new cemetery. Later, other famous internments were moved as well and this had the desired effect: everyone wanted to be buried among the famous.
Today, 300,000 people are buried within the cemetery’s walls. The most popular grave is that of American rock star Jim Morrison. There are other familiar names among the graves:
- Honoré de Balzac
- Frederic Chopin (composer)
- Oscar Wilde (author)
- Gioachino Rossini (composer)
- Georges Bizet (composer)
Aside from the graves of the famous and not-so-famous, Père-Lachaise also has many monuments dedicated to those whose lives came to an end during many of the wars fought on French soil, as well as those who died during the Holocaust.
The official site of Père-Lachaise has an amazing virtual tour of the entire cemetery, which looks like a walled off city of it’s own and is often referred to as la cite des morts by the residents of Paris. And, like its counterparts in Glasgow and London, Père-Lachaise is a virtual museum of statues, monuments and panetheons so popular during the Victorian Era.