The world’s most visited cemetery was founded in 1804, and initially attracted few funerals because of its distance from the city centre. The authorities responded by exhuming famous remains and resettling them here. Their marketing ploy worked and Cimetière du Père Lachaise has been Paris’ most fashionable final address ever since.
Paris residency was the only criterion needed to be buried in Père Lachaise, hence the cemetery’s cosmopolitan population. Among the million-odd people buried here are the composer Chopin; the playwright Molière; the poet Apollinaire; writers Balzac, Proust, Gertrude Stein and Colette; the actors Simone Signoret, Sarah Bernhardt and Yves Montand; the painters Pissarro, Seurat, Modigliani and Delacroix; the chanteuse Édith Piaf and the dancer Isadora Duncan.
The grave of Irish playwright and humorist Oscar Wilde (1854–1900), in division 89, is among the most visited (as the unfortunate glass barrier erected around his sculpted tomb, designed to prevent fans impregnating the stone with red lipstick imprints, attests). The other big hitter, likewise barricaded from over-zealous fans, is 1960s rock star Jim Morrison (1943–71; he died in Le Marais), in division 6.
Up in division 92, protests saw the removal of a fence around[…].
Commemorative memorials to victims of almost every war in modern history form a poignant alley alongside the Mur des Fédérés, an unmemorable plain brick wall against which Communard insurgents were lined up, shot and buried in a mass grave in 1871.
Art & Architecture
For those visiting Paris for its exceptional art and architecture, this vast cemetery –the city’s largest– is not a bad starting point. It’s one of central Paris’ biggest green spaces, with 5300 trees and a treasure trove of magnificent 19th-century sculptures by artists such as David d’Angers, Hector Guimard, Visconti and Chapu.
The cemetery has five entrances, two of which are on bd de Ménilmontant. To save time searching for famous graves, pick up cemetery maps at the conservation office (rue du Repos, 20e; Opening hours: 8.30am-12.30pm & 2.00-5.00pm Mon-Fri; Metro: Père Lachaise (Lines 2 & 3) near the main boulevard de Ménilmontant entrance. »
Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Édith Piaf and countless other famous names.