In Cemeteries on September 20, 2009 at 10:32 pm

A pathway in Pere Lachaise

Pere Lachaise

There are beautiful, vibrant and inspiring older cemeteries. One of the most famous, and a favorite of mine is Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Designed and opened in 1804, it was a new cemetery for Paris, which had banned cemeteries. Cemeteries had been banned inside Paris in 1786,  on the grounds that it presented a health hazard. (This same health hazard also led to the creation of the famous Parisian catacombs in the south of the city.) Several new cemeteries replaced the Parisian ones: Montmartre Cemetery, Père Lachaise, and Montparnasse Cemetery.

When it opened, Pere Lachaise was considered to be situated too far from the city and attracted few funerals. The administrators began a marketing strategy and began transferring the remains of famous French dead to their cemetery.

People began clamoring to be buried among the famous citizens, (now) including: Sarah Bernhardt, Bizet, Maria Callas, Chopin, Delacroix, Isadora Duncan, Yves Montand, Edith Piaf, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, and Oscar Wilde.

Pere Lachaise invites strolling amongst its tree-lined cobbled streets. The detail and ornament of the tombs and mausoleums is entertaining. It’s a beautiful and historical urban spot that is heavily used.

It’s a place of human scale where people want to visit, whether or not they have anyone buried there. It’s been working beautifully for over 200 years, and it can serve as a dynamic model for many other possible cemetery sites.

A perfectly delightful use of a cemetery....

A perfectly delightful use of a cemetery....


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