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Pere Lachaise Cemetery (Cimetière du Père-Lachaise) was a cemetery established by Napoleon I in 1804.
Pere Lachaise Cemetery history
Originally considered to be too far from the main city, Pere Lachaise Cemetery initially attracted few funerals, but following a marketing campaign and the transfer of the remains of French philosopher Pierre Abélard in 1817, its popularity grew and it soon gained over 33,000 residents.
From singer Edith Piaf, novelist Marcel Proust and impressionist painter Camille Pissarro to playwright Oscar Wilde, an array of famous figures are buried there today. One of the most popular graves at Pere Lachaise Cemetery is that of The Doors’ front man Jim Morrison, probably attracting the largest number of visitors, but all of the graves are fascinating, including those of the regular citizens.
The cemetery was twice the scene of armed fighting: once in 1814, during the Napoleonic Wars, when it was overrun by Russians in the Battle of Paris, and a second time in May 1871, during the turmoil of the Paris Commune, when 147 Communards were slaughtered there. This is also surrounded by monuments to concentration camp victims from the Holocaust.
Pere Lachaise Cemetery today
Pere Lachaise Cemetery extends 44 hectares and contains 70,000 burial plots. Estimates concerning the number of people buried there vary widely, from some 300,000 to about 1,000,000. The cemetery is a mix between an English park and a shrine. All funerary art styles are represented: Gothic graves, Haussmanian burial chambers and ancient mausoleums.
Maps are available to buy at the entrance, but you can also use the directories on the grounds. Overall, Pere Lachaise Cemetery is a peaceful and interesting way to spend an afternoon.
Getting to Pere Lachaise Cemetery
Pere Lachaise Cemetery is situated in the 20th arrondissement of Paris.
The main entrance is on the Boulevard de Ménilmontant, with the nearby Porte du Repos pedestrian entrance being convenient to the Philippe-Auguste station of the Paris Métro’s Line 2. Other Métro stations near the cemetery include Père Lachaise (Line 2 and 3) and Gambetta near the north or back entrance (Line 3).
- Guided tours are available by advance telephone reservations.
- Free maps are available at the principal entries (Porte des Amandiers and Porte Gambetta.) You can also take a fascinating virtual tour of the cemetery ahead of your visit.
- The cemetery was named after Père de la Chaise, who was King Louis IV's confessor. The priest resided in a Jesuit residence that stood at the site of the present-day chapel.
- Emperor Napoleon I inaugurated the cemetery in 1804. In order to mark the new cemetery as a place of prestige, the remains of French playwright Molière and famous lovers Abelard and Heloise were transferred to Pere Lachaise in the early 19th century.
- Housing some 300,000 graves, Pere-Lachaise is Paris' largest cemetery and one of the globe's most-visited cemeteries, with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Jim Morrison in Paris: His Last Weeks, Mysterious Death, and Grave in Père Lachaise
Amongst the great and the good in Père Lachaise cemetery– the poets and the artists, Molière, Delacroix, Edith Piaf and Morrison’s own great idol, Oscar Wilde– lies the grave of the legendary singer of The Doors.
Jim Morrison’s premature death in Paris still remains obscured by mystery, rumor and conspiracy theories of a cover up as to the actual cause (and even location) of his demise. The death certificate stated heart failure, but no autopsy was ever performed and it is believed that Morrison’s body, still submerged in the bathtub where his girlfriend had found him around 6am on Saturday July 3rd 1971, remained there until the undertakers finally delivered his coffin 72 hours later.
The Doors. From left-Jim Morrison, John Densmore, Robby Krieger and seated, Ray Manzarek. Credit: Public domain
Paris was to be a chance for Morrison to escape the madness of his rock n’ roll lifestyle in the U.S., to try and get clean and shake off his drug and alcohol addiction. As with many before him, Morrison was to discover the hard way that the allures of Paris for an addictive personality would prove impossible to resist. Add to that the company of his long-time girlfriend, Pam Courson, herself a heroin addict and Morrison’s equal in unfettered behavior, and perhaps the writing was already on the wall.
When Morrison arrived in Paris in March 1971, he was almost unrecognizable from the slender, elegant, leather clad, exotic looking singer of The Doors, beloved by millions of fans. Excessive beer drinking had bloated both his figure and his face a long, unkempt beard and mustache completed the metamorphosis. He was burned out, his alcohol problems had blunted his creative song writing, and his participation as lead singer of the The Doors was erratic at best. He was also stressed. A 40-day trial (after being charged with exposing himself on stage in Miami) was still awaiting a verdict and a possible six-month prison sentence was hanging over his head.
Paris must have seemed a dream.
Morrison had been arrested before in Tallahassee, Florida, 1963. Credit: Public Domain
Morrison was born in Florida in 1943. His father was a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy and his strict upbringing almost inevitably resulted in his rebellious, and anti-establishment, behavior so prevalent in the hippy, anti-Vietnam era of the 1960s. By then he had moved to California to study cinema at UCLA and by 1965, his diploma completed, a new career with The Doors had begun.
Morrison and his father on the USS Bonn Homme Richard, Jan, 1964. Credit: Public domain
Always a voracious reader, Morrison had devoured the works of William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Ginsberg, Kafka, Camus, Sartre and of course Oscar Wilde. He was a poet whose natural talent enhanced the lyrics of some of The Doors’ greatest hits Light my Fire, Riders of the Storm and People are Strange, to name but a few. The combination of his raw sex appeal, good looks and being lead singer of such a successful rock band, thrust Morrison into the never-ending lime light of adoring fans and crazy fame. A shy, gentle artistic man when sober, Morrison was a Jekyll and Hyde when drunk: unpredictable, fiery tempered and prone to excessive and wild behavior.
It was a roundabout he hoped to get off when Pam Courson invited him to Paris.
Pam Courson had been Morrison’s long-term girlfriend since 1965, and although neither of them had ever been faithful, Ray Manzarek, The Doors’ keyboard player, said of Courson that he “never knew another person who could so complement his bizarreness.” Courson was “his other half.” The two halves, however, made for a potent and dangerously unsafe duo.
Courson had been staying with Jean de Breteuil, an aristocratic drug dealer who moved between London, where he was an intimate of Keith Richard and Anita Pallenberg, and Paris, where his drug dealing continued and he doubtless was the main supplier of Courson’s heroin. Already Morrison was moving into a toxic and unhealthy environment, far removed from any hope of a healthy respite and a recovery from opiates.
17 Rue Beautreillis, also the address of his supposed death. Credit: Flickr, Vania Wolf
At first, the couple stayed at the Georges V before moving on to the eponymous L’Hotel where Oscar Wilde had died, and then to a rented apartment at 17, Rue Beautreillis between St Paul in the Marais and the Bastille.
There is no doubt that Morrison loved and appreciated Paris for its literary and artistic cultural heritage he was living in the city of his literary idols, so Père Lachaise and Oscar Wilde’s grave was one of his first ports of call.
He often sat in Place des Vosges near his apartment and wrote otherwise he discovered Paris as any other tourist would, walking to the Ile Saint Louis, perusing the books in Shakespeare and Company and wandering around Saint-Germain-des-Prés drinking in the Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots.
Les Deux Magots. Credit: Flickr, Serge Melki
But as in any city, Paris had a darker side. The 1970s had heralded in a new era of heroin use and clubs on the Left Bank, such as the Rock n’Roll Circus, first opened in 1969, and the Alcazar soon became nighttime haunts of Morrison.
The last night of Jim Morrison in Paris, according to Pam Courson, was marked by its normality, its uneventfulness: dinner at a Chinese restaurant and later a film (Robert Mitchum in Pursued at the Action Lafayette), before they returned to the Rue Beautreillis and went to bed. Then according to Courson’s police report, she was awakened by Morrison’s labored breathing, but he told her he was going to take a bath. She found him there, dead at dawn. A doctor was called sometime in the next 72 hours who pronounced that Morrison had died of heart failure. His body was removed from the apartment and under the guise of Morrison being described as a poet (and not a rock star with a sometimes scandalous past) permission was given to bury him in Père Lachaise cemetery.
That was the official, accepted version but discrepancies and anomalies soon became apparent and the rumor mill began in earnest.
Courson had at first denied Morrison had died. Journalists, who had heard rumors of his death, were told he was in hospital The Doors’ manager was also told Morrison was fine before Courson admitted the truth. No coherent explanation was given for Morrison being left in the bathtub where he had died (reputedly wrapped in plastic and packed in ice) for three days before the undertakers took his body away.
Morrison’s barricaded grave. Credit: Flicker, Juan Montoya
But then several years ago, another version of Jim Morrison’s last hours held a peculiar resonance of credibility for many people. The former manager of the Rock n’ Roll Circus, Sam Bennett, claimed that Morrison had died in a toilet stall of a heroin overdose in the club and his body had been removed and taken to Courson and Morrison’s flat to avoid a scandal. Marianne Faithfull later claimed that the overdose was given to Morrison by her then boyfriend, Jean de Breuteil. Others claimed that Morrison hated needles and did not do heroin and question the reason for a closed coffin and the quick and quiet funeral. Doubtless, the truth will never be known, the mystery will remain and the facts will be impossible to verify. A few months after Morrison’s death, Jean de Breteuil died of an overdose and in 1974, back in America, Pam Courson suffered the same fate.
Back at Père Lachaise, Morrison’s grave, at first barely marked, soon became the most visited grave in the cemetery. In 1981, a headstone was crafted by the Croatian artist Mladen Mikulos. (The bust was stolen in 1988.) In 1990, Morrison’s grave was renovated and a new curb and headstone installed. Mikulos’s headstone was destroyed.
Morrison’s Grave at Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. Credit: Flickr, Terrazzo
Finally in 2004, complaints regarding the destructive behavior of some of Morrison’s fans– who were not only trampling on neighboring graves, but actually defacing them with graffiti and slogans– came to a head. The surrounding area was often littered with beer cans especially on the anniversaries of his death without any thought for the graves of the dead Morrison himself had so respected and wanted to be buried alongside.
Cemetery officials erected metal barricades around the site. The last flat stone laid on the grave was organized by Morrison’s father in 1990 and has a Greek inscription. The translation is open to interpretation but usually accepted as meaning, “or true to his own spirit.”
The simpler inscription above says:
James Douglas Morrison
Jim Morrison’s grave is in Division 6, Rue du Repos. Maps are available at Père Lachaise Cemetery (20th arrondissement).
Lead photo credit : Jim Morrison, portrait. Credit: Flickr, Susan Ackeridge
The History of the Communards’ Wall in Père Lachaise Cemetery
On the Avenue Circulaire on the outer pathway of Père-Lachaise Cemetery, a plain stone plaque is set into the wall with the inscription, ‘Aux Morts de la Commune, 21-28 Mai, 1871.’ (To the dead of the Commune.) Easy to miss, the simple inscription gives no indication of the horrors this wall witnessed in one of the most turbulent periods of French history.
The Association of the Friends of the Paris Commune hold a commemoration ceremony at the wall every year on the 28th and 29th of May, keen to stress that the elaborate, haunting sculpture of a goddess, fatally wounded, falling back with outstretched arms, also on the perimeter path of Père-Lachaise, is a monument to commemorate the whole period encompassing the short-lived Paris Commune, but not the infamous slaughter at The Communards’ Wall (mur des fédérés).
The government of the Paris Commune lasted 74 days. It was a movement formed in protest at France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian war which resulted in the working classes feeling ostracized and ignored. When the Prussians besieged Paris in 1870 the poor were made even poorer still and were reduced to eating cats and rats to survive.
The seeds of the Franco-Prussian war were born in 1865 when Napoleon III, the ruler of France, agreed a deal with the Prussian prime minister Otto Von Bismarck that France would not involve herself between any wars between Prussia and Austria and specifically not ally herself with Austria nor allow Italy to claim Venetia. Later Napoleon III reneged on the deal, violating the original Bismarck agreement and signing a treaty with Austria about Venetia and allowing Austria to go to war with Prussia. It was to prove to be a costly mistake for France.
Père Lachaise Cemetery. Credit © Flickr, Guy Renard
Prussia had annexed numerous territories already forming the N. German Confederation and began looking southwards to expand its influence.
Wilhelm I., Deutscher Kaiser in Generalsuniform © Public Domain
The prospect of a Prussian King on the Spanish throne and the powerful country that would then be sitting on France’s borders provoked France to declare war on Prussia. The war lasted from July 19th, 1870 until May 10th, 1871 when France was defeated, resulting in the unification of Germany. (To add insult to injury on January 18th,1871, King William I of Prussia was proclaimed German Emperor at Versailles, the former palace of French Kings.)
Paris had already surrendered on January 28th against the wishes of many Parisians. France had already lost Alsace and much of Lorraine and were facing huge payments of five billion francs to Germany. An armistice was signed on February 26th and ratified on March 1st but dissatisfaction amongst the radicals in Paris, the newly formed Communards, encouraged them to step into the vacuum of the government being based away from Paris in Versailles, and they established their own government in Paris before the Treaty of Frankfurt was signed on May 10th.
Rue de Rivoli after the Bloody Week, Paris 4th arr. Credit © Public Domain
The Communards’ aims were far reaching (and ironically later became incorporated into French law) they included the right for Paris to elect its own mayor, separation of church and state and most progressively, economic and social reforms including those by female communards.
Many of the wealthier Parisians left Paris, even though some agreed with the Communards’ cause, but the main Communard force remained in the poorer, working class areas of northeastern Paris like Montmartre, Belleville etc.
French reservists responding to the call, painted by Pierre-Georges Jeanniot © public domain
On the morning of March 18th, the government based in Versailles sent military forces into Paris to collect canons and machine guns. In the uprising that followed, the insurgents along with the National Guard, who had changed sides, controlled the city and declared the Paris Commune the new government. The ‘official’ government then prepared for battle.
The Communards were hopelessly outnumbered. The Versailles forces numbered around 130,000 men the Communards who included women and children who actually defended the Commune numbered less than 20,000 but rough estimates of supporters of the Commune who were either killed in the fighting, gunned down indiscriminately afterwards or summarily executed ran as high as 25,000.
When the battle was over, Parisians buried the bodies of the Communards in temporary mass graves. They were quickly moved to the public cemeteries, where between 6,000 and 7,000 Communards were buried. Credit © Public Domain
The ‘trials’ held at Parc Monceau, Châtelet and the Luxembourg Gardens were complete travesties often lasting just seconds, it was enough to simply be working class, a plebeian, for a guilty verdict. Bodies were covered in lime and thrown into the river, impossible to know a true figure.
The soldiers from Versailles were pitiless in their ferocity in fighting the Communards who fought from behind barricades right across the city. The government in Versailles wanted a lesson to be taught to other communes in cities across France and so operated with the Prussians to totally repress the insurgents. During the weeks of the Paris Commune, the Tuileries Palace and the Hotel de Ville were burned and the Vendôme column toppled. Fearful of the spread of the Paris Commune’s political and economic ideology to cities such as Lyon, Narbonne, Marseille and Bordeaux, the Paris Commune was to be obliterated.
Barricades during the Paris Commune, near the Place de la Concorde © Public Domain
And so it was that the last 147 members of the Commune were cornered in Père-Lachaise cemetery, still resisting in the mud under the wall with their bare hands.
All 147 were lined up against the wall and executed on the 28th of May, 1871. This was the end of the week forever known as La Semaine Sanglante, The Week of Bloodshed.
The uprising was crushed but never forgotten.
The Paris Commune has been held up as an example by both Marx and the Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong. Marx stated that it was a living example of a “dictatorship of the proletariat.”
It was certainly an example of extreme bravery against all odds in the fight for truly democratic society.
It took a PR stunt to make the cemetery popular
On May 21, 1804, a 5-year-old girl was the first person to be laid to rest in the brand-new Pere Lachaise Cemetery, according to Napoleon.org. Surely, she would soon be joined by thousands more. Who wouldn't want to spend their eternity among the trees on a hillside overlooking Paris?
It turned out, no one wanted that. A nondenominational cemetery? And so hilly? And it was too far outside of Paris. Why would you want to leave Paris, even in death?
This led to possibly the most morbid PR stunt in history. If people needed a reason to be buried in Pere Lachaise, the authorities would give them one. There were lots of dead people buried in other places, and some of them were famous. So they dug up notable people and moved their remains to Pere Lachaise. The Encyclopedia Britannica says this was done with "much fanfare," so everyone knew.
First Napoleon had Louise de Lorraine, queen consort of Henri III, reinterred there. But it still wasn't enough. So 1817 saw the relocation of the remains of the famous poet Jean de La Fontaine, the writer and actor Moliere, and — the biggest get of all — the tomb of Abelard and Heloise. If those names don't ring a bell, just know it's like getting the French Romeo and Juliet for your cemetery. Of course, people will want to be buried next to them. Pere Lachaise was suddenly the most desirable cemetery in France.
A trip to the Père Lachaise cemetery would not be complete without admiring the tomb of France’s national chanteuse, Édith Piaf. In her most famous love song, ‘La Vie en Rose’, she wrote, “With you, I see the world through rose-coloured glasses”. The grave is modest, but it’s heartwarming to see how, after a difficult and controversial life, Édith Piaf took her final resting place beside her second husband Théo Sarapo, her father Louis-Alphone Gassion and her daughter Marcelle Dupont.
The station is located at the intersection of Boulevard de Ménilmontant, Avenue de la République and Avenue Gambetta, west of Place Auguste-Métivier, the platforms being positioned:
- on line 2, south of the intersection, under Boulevard de Ménilmontant (between Ménilmontant and Philippe Auguste stations)
- on line 3, west of the intersection under the end of Avenue de la République (between Rue Saint-Maur and Gambetta, not counting the old Martin Nadaud station upstream of the second).
The station was opened on 31 January 1903 as part of the extension of Line 2 (known at the time as "2 Nord") from Anvers to Bagnolet (now called Alexandre Dumas). The Line 3 platforms opened on 19 October 1904 as part of the first section of the line between Père Lachaise and Villiers. It was a terminus for three months until the line was extended to Gambetta on 25 January 1905.
The station is named for the Père Lachaise Cemetery, which it serves, and which in turn takes its name from Father François d'Aix de La Chaise, confessor to Louis XIV of France. It was the location of the Barrière de Amandiers, a gate built for the collection of taxation as part of the Wall of the Farmers-General the gate was built between 1784 and 1788 and demolished during the 19th century.  
In 1909, the station became the first metro station to have an escalator.
Like a third of the stations in the network, between 1974 and 1984 the platforms on both lines were modernized by adopting the Andreu-Motte style, in orange for line 2 and in yellow on line 3 with the layout being completed with flat white tiles replacing the original bevelled tiles in both cases. As part of the RATP's Renouveau du métro program, the station's corridors were renovated by 4 March 2005. 
In 2018, 4,882,748 passengers entered this station, which places it at 95th position for metro stations for it usage. 
The station has two entrances divided into three metro outlets:
- entrance 1 - Boulevard de Ménilmontant consisting of two back-to-back exits, one consisting of a Guimard entrance,  a historic monuments decreed on 12 February 2016, the other consisting of an escalator going up, both emerging on the central reservation of Boulevard Ménilmontant, south of the intersection with the avenues of the Republic and Gambetta
- entrance 2 - Avenue de la République, consisting of a fixed staircase decorated with a balustrade also designed by Hector Guimard and classified as a historic monument, located at the right of no. 103 of said avenue.
Station layout Edit
|B1||Mezzanine for platform connection|
|Line 2 platforms||Side platform, doors will open on the right|
|Westbound||← toward Porte Dauphine (Ménilmontant)|
|Eastbound||→ toward Nation (Philippe Auguste) →|
|Side platform, doors will open on the right|
|Line 3 platforms||Side platform, doors will open on the right|
|Westbound||← toward Pont de Levallois – Bécon (Rue Saint-Maur)|
|Eastbound||→ toward Gallieni (Gambetta) →|
|Side platform, doors will open on the right|
The platforms of the two lines are of standard configuration, two in number per stop, separated by the metro tracks located in the center.
Those in line 2 have an elliptical vault and are furnished in the Andreu-Motte style with two orange light strips, tympans partially covered with flat orange tiles and Motte seats of the same color. The vault, the walls and part of the tympans at the right of the entrances are covered with flat white tiles are aligned horizontally different from usual staggered arrangement of vaulted stations. The stopping point only shares this feature with the half-stations common to lines 8 and 10 at La Motte-Picquet – Grenelle and, until 2017, with Gare du Nord on line 4. The advertising frames are metallic and the name of the station is written in Parisine font on enameled plates.
The platforms of line 3 are established flush with the ground the ceiling consists of a metal deck, the beams of which are supported by vertical pillars. As for line 2, the platforms are furnished in the Andreu-Motte style with two yellow light strips and yellow and orange Motte seats. The yellow shade is also applied to the metal beams. The white ceramic tiles, placed vertically and aligned, are flat and cover the side walls, the tympans and the outlets of the corridors. The advertising frames are metallic and the name of the station is written in Parisine typography on enameled plates.
Politicians, Bureaucrats, & Military Leaders Buried at Père Lachaise
75. Félix Faure: 1841-1899/>Tomb of Felix Faure, President of France
Félix François Faure served as President of France from 1895 until he died four years later, supposedly while having sex with his much younger mistress. While alive, it was said that his best qualification for being President was that he didn't offend anyone. Once dead, the circumstances of his demise inspired a huge outburst of hilarity in the form of puns, double entendres, and wordplays (let's just say that many of them involved French words and synonyms for "pumped up." It's hard to say whether the sculpture of him lying dead on top of his tomb makes him look at peace or just deflated. (Division 4)
More Politicians, Bureaucrats, Military Leaders, Résistants
76. Colonel Fabien (Pierre Felix Georges): 1919-1944
A memorial in Pere Lachaise honors the legendary French Resistance fighter Colonel Fabien (born Pierre Georges field name Frédo) and his squad including Lt Colonel Dax, Capitaine Katz, and Capitaine Lebon who fought aggressively against the Nazi occupiers of Paris and elsewhere during World War II. They blew up German equipment, initiated targeted assassinations, and organized and led a Free French battalion which played a key role in the Liberation of Paris during August 19-25, 1944. Fabien then organized the Paris Brigade of 500 resistance fighters to continue the fight against the occupiers. He and the others named on the monument died in 1944 during an operation near Germany.
Although Colonel Fabien's fights against the Nazi occupation of France did not always achieve success, especially in the beginning, the importance of his efforts to prevent his country from falling into the "loyal collaboration" advocated by the Vichy puppet government installed by Germany cannot be understated. If you want to learn more about his efforts to free France, visit the Musée de la Libération. (Division 97)
77. Marie-Madeleine Fourcade: 1909-1989
Leader of the French Resistance "Alliance" espionage network during the occupation of France by the Nazis during World War II. She operated under the code name "Hérisson" ("Hedgehog"), and as commander of 3,000 resistance agents, tracked and reported on the movement of submarines and other critical information. She was captured twice but escaped both times, and was named a Commander of the Legion of Honor after the war ended. (Division 90)
78. Jean-Jacques Cambacérès: 1753-1824
Jean-Jacques Cambacérès (full name: Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambacérès, duc de Parme) was a French lawyer and nobleman who was the primary author of the Napoleonic code, France's first civil laws, which remains in place today as the foundation of civil law in France and other former French colonies and possessions around the world. He was buried with military honors at Pere Lachaise. (Division 39)
79. Georges-Eugene Haussmann: 1775-1825
Georges-Eugene Haussmann (known as Baron Haussmann) was a civil servant who became Prefet of the Seine, transformer of Paris during the Second Empire, partly because of his "audacious" personality. At the request of Napoleon III, he radically transformed Paris, which had been a warren of narrow, winding medieval streets lacking adequate sewage systems and clean drinking water to become a cleaner and healthier, much more modern, and much grander city with broad, sweeping avenues lined with new ornately detailed buildings built according to a strict formula (shops on the ground level with five floors above) now known as Haussmannian architecture. Paris also became larger to relieve congestion, Napoleon annexed 11 surrounding communes (towns) and increased the number of arrondissements from 12 to 20.
During a 3-decade period starting in 1854, Paris was a construction zone. Baron Haussmann brought in clean water, rebuilt the sewer system, put in place a system to wash the streets and water public parks, installed streetlights and a gas distribution system to keep them lit, created four new large parks (including the two bois, or woodlands, sometimes called the "lungs of Paris") and 20 smaller ones, and oversaw the building of the Paris Opera House, Palais Garnier. Haussmann was eventually fired and Napoleon III overthrown. Today, he's simultaneously remembered as the man who destroyed the beautiful medieval Paris and the man who created the beautiful modern Paris. His remains are interred in his family tomb at Pere Lachaise. (Division 4)
80. Imre Nagy: 1896-1958
Prime Minister of Hungary from 1953-1955 who was forced to resign and expelled from the Communist Party because of his "liberalizing" tendencies. He became a leader of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 against the Soviet Union-backed government, and after it was suppressed, he was sentenced to death, executed, and buried in an unmarked grave in Hungary. At this time, a cenotaph was placed as a memorial to him in Pere Lachaise. In 1989, his remains were retrieved and reburied in Hungary with full honors. His cenotaph remains Paris. (Division 44)
81. Maximilien Foy: 1775-1825
French military leader during the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleon Bonaparte's various battles and expeditions. He wrote a history of the Peninsular War that is still considered definitive. His tomb is quite large and impressive. (Division 28)
82. François Raspail: 1794-1878
Respected French chemist who was one of the founders of cell theory in biology. He became involved in politics after the Revolution of 1830, which overthrew Charles X and put Louis Philippe on the throne. He ran for President during the Second Empire but Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte (later Napoleon III) defeated him. He joined couple of revolts that failed, which led to him being imprisoned and exiled. While he was in prison, his wife died. A large sculpture on his tomb shows a shrouded spirit representing his dead wife trying to visit him in prison.
If Raspail's name seems surprising familiar, that's because the longest boulevard in Paris, Boulevard Raspail, and a metro station are named for him. (Division 18)
What does Napoléon have to do with Père-Lachaise?
Père (Father) Lachaise, namesake of the cemetery.
In the years prior to Père- Lachaise Cemetery’s founding in 1804, the new First Consul Napoléon Bonaparte was concerned with the living conditions of his subjects, but never took into consideration another growing population: the dead.
His constituents noticed the problem as bodies piled up, literally, and demanded a solution. Napoléon laid down the challenge to his city planners: solve the overcrowding. In 1799 a competition was announced to create new cemeteries on the outskirts of Paris.
A location was chosen in the far eastern section of the city: the former 17th-century country retreat of Father François d’Aix de la Chaise (Jesuit confessor to the Sun King, Louis XIV). The competition winner, architect Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart, created a brilliant design for transforming this mountainous Elysium into a final resting place for Parisians.
Jesuit retreat and future site of Père Lachaise Cemetery
Nicolas Frochot, Prefect of the Seine, a brilliant marketer named the cemetery “Père Lachaise,” after the popular Sun King’s confessor, plus he appealed to the elite of Paris by purchasing great sculptures to be placed throughout the landscape.
Tomb of Héloïse and Abélard
He further bartered for noble bones to lead the way by having them entombed there. He successfully negotiated for the remains of the famed and ill-fated 17th century lovers, Héloïse and Abélard, whose effigies soon lay atop a granite chapel bier not far from the entrance to the cemetery.
Today, there are one million people buried in Père- Lachaise, and it has become a resting place for all people in Paris, representing many economic strata, races, and religions.
If the idea of making Père-Lachaise Cemetery your final resting place appeals to you, be aware: although there is a waiting list, one can still be buried in this Elysian Ritz. Should you be so fortunate as to snag a spot here, your sentiments surely would echo those of fellow resident Guillaume Apollinaire, one of the foremost poets of the early 20th century. Etched on his tombstone at Père-Lachase is this line from his poem “Les Collines” (“The Hills”):
Je peux mourir en souriant
(“I can die with a smile on my face”)