No other cemetery is so good at name dropping than Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise in Paris
. It is the final resting place of many famous personalities. The list of the persons buried there looks like the Who's Who of over two centuries' worth.
It is expansive and beautiful, with 44 hectares and over 5,000 trees. This makes it the largest park in the city. And the fact that many of the famous are buried here has made it into a pantheon garden and open air museum.
The cemetery is located on top of the hill of Camp 'Eveque. It is named after the confessor of Louis XIV – Father Francois de La Chaise d'Aix, or La Pere La Chaise. It was opened as a cemetery in the early 1800s and was designed by Alexandre-Theodore Brongniart, who is also buried here.
The cemetery came about as a response to the banning of cemeteries within the city's vicinity, as this was believed to cause disease. So, cemeteries were transferred to the city's outskirts.
The developer, Nicolas Frochot, had a wonderful brainchild. He convinced the civil authorities to move the bodies of La Fontaine, plus the star-crossed lovers Abelard and Heloise and Moliers into the new cemetery. The transfers were done with great fanfare. Before long, it was known as the ultimate status symbol for the rich and famous deceased. Frochot was able to charge astronomical fees for a portion of the lot. In fact, it was said that the original owner brought a plot here and Frochot charged him even more than the original price of the entire site!
Currently, the cemetery has more than 70,000 plots, with about two million tourists who visit from the world over. Now, you may wonder, why would someone want to visit a cemetery? Well, this is where Frederic Chopin, Georges Bizet, Max Ernst, Maria Callas, Eugene Delacroix, Oscar Wilde and Sarah Bernhardt are buried. And this is only a partial list. Other well-known residents include the famous 19th century French novelist Honore de Balzac, Claude Bernard (who was a renowned French physiologist), the Mime artist, Marcel Marceau and Napoleon's mistress, Marie, the Countess Walewski.
This is also where you will find the resting place of the fabulous dancer, Isadora Duncan (which has been put to rest in the Columbarium), as well as the grave of Jim Morrison, known as the singer of the popular band, the Doors. There is a full-time security guard watching to prevent vandalism from fans who used to place arrows on other plots to point to where "Jim" was buried.
What's more, you can find a lot of grand 19th century sculptures here, as the family of those buried here tried to make their resting places as ornate and impressive as ever. Yes, this is how the rich and fabulous then did their version of "keeping up with the Jones' ". And for history buffs, you can also find here three Great War memorials. This is where the 147 of the last defenders of Belleville, called the Communards, were laid to rest.
Pere-Lachaise is a fun place in that you can make it like a treasure hunt. So get on with the hunt and find your favorite celebrity.