Awaken To The Illustrious Dead in Paris

Bonjour my friends,

On more than a few occasions, I have meandered among the monumental gravestones of the famous dead in the cemeteries of Paris. Le Cimetiere de Montmartre, Montrouge, Passy, Pere- Lachaise and Montparnasse are the five most famous ones who house underground many  illustrious personalities and icons of France.

I have learnt that these cemeteries can offer an insight into the history of France and its peoples, be them French or Francophiles. Sculptured tombstones  capture the personality of those who lie below, sometimes with humour and more often reverence, emphasizing the  inspiring lives  of those who have passed.

On entry, you are given a map with the location of the “famous dead” and with map in hand, the treasure hunt begins. Pere-Lachaise is a huge maze of beautiful sculptured forms and it is not unlike a visit to an open air gallery in  monotones of grey.

We come across the tombstones of the famous one by one. Le Cimitiere du Pere-Lachaise in particular, pulls at my heart strings as I find the tombs of  the passionate singer Edith Piaf  (lovingly nicknamed “the little sparrow”),  Frederick Chopin, Moliere, Proust, Jimmy Morrison and  Oscar Wilde whose tomb incidentally is studded all over its fair granite with  lipstick kisses.

Traversing the maze of tombstones eventually lead us to the tomb of the twelfth century lovers, Heloise and Abelard, whose undying love story is still told today.

Pierre Abelard de Palais was a thirty something year old philosophy teacher in the twelfth century who fell in love with Heloise, the eighteen year old daughter of a cathedral canon. She soon falls pregnant, has to give up the child to become  a nun, and  Abelard is punished by castration. They never see each other until twenty years later, except exchanging love letters over the course of this time in spite being separated.

Their bones are intertwined in one tombstone  and according to locals, lovers leave their letters at the cemetery. Something can be said for a country which places such importance on unrequited love and passion.

Enjoy the photos. I couldn’t help but colour Chopin’s gravestone “passion pink” for such a vibrant musician!

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

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4 Responses to “Awaken To The Illustrious Dead in Paris”

  1. I think they should paint Chopin’s tomb pink too 😉

  2. Nice photos!. I wish I’d done so well with the camera when I visited Pere Lachaise – but has to content myself with a word picture. Happy travelling and bon voyage!
    Richard

    http://richardtulloch.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/death-in-paris-celebrity-grave-spotting/

    • Thanks Richard, Travel can open your mind and heart to so many things. Photographs become the “doggie bag” we love to take back home. You’re doing a fine job yourself! Therese

  3. Thanks Therese, and I’m glad I don’t know how to do that pink photo colouration trick! Still, much better than going round the cemetery with a spray can! Cheers, Richard

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