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Inside Père Lachaise, the World’s Most Famous Cemetery

We’ve all heard the joke before: if you’d rather visit a cemetery than a mall, you’re probably a genealogist. While it may prompt the inevitable eye-roll, there’s an underlying truth about the allure of cemeteries as treasure troves of genealogical facts. Today we’ll take a closer look at the world’s most famous and most visited cemetery, Père Lachaise.

This famous Parisian cemetery, also called East Cemetery, is named after Father (Père) François d’Aix de la Chaize (1624–1709), who was King Louis XVI’s confessor. In fact, his personal residence was on the grounds of the cemetery, which is now home to over one million graves.

The cemetery has triggered passions, inspired legends, and evoked mysterious tales of the many celebrities who have chosen it as their final resting place.

We recently visited Père Lachaise to do some research, and unearthed 5 interesting facts about it.

1. Nobody wanted to be buried there originally

This may come as a surprise, but when the cemetery was first established in 1804, nobody wanted to be buried there. That changed thanks to a publicity stunt by the French authorities. They relocated the remains of renowned French authors Molière and Jean de La Fontaine from their respective burial places to Père Lachaise on March 6, 1817. The plan worked, and suddenly the entire “Who’s Who” of Paris wanted to be buried there too! Clearly fame isn’t only for the living. 

Tombstone of Molière (Credit: Marie Cappart, MyHeritage)

Tombstone of Molière (Credit: Marie Cappart, MyHeritage)

2. You can still be buried in Père Lachaise 

When it comes to your final resting place, why not go for the best? Unlike other famous cemeteries, Père Lachaise is an active cemetery and still accepts burials and “residents”. Burials and cremations take place there every day, because in addition to being a burial ground, there’s a crematorium in the center of the cemetery.

Credit: Marie Cappart, MyHeritage

Credit: Marie Cappart, MyHeritage

However, don’t rush just yet. There are criteria one needs to meet to be buried in Père Lachaise: you have to live in Paris and register on a long waiting list. Unfortunately eternity comes with a price.

3. It’s also a museum… and a monument 

Père Lachaise is huge. It’s a living museum with every kind of tombstone you can think of: big, small, opulent, or modest. You’ll find family vaults alongside individual graves, and some truly eccentric tombstones. You can spend hours there and have fun reading the family names, exploring the vaults, and admiring the graves of famous and ordinary people. Some graves give indications regarding the professions or origins of the deceased, like this grave of a photographer, which is shaped like a camera and film cartridge as a tribute.

A photographer’s grave in Père Lachaise Cemetery (Credit: Marie Cappart, MyHeritage)

A photographer’s grave in Père Lachaise Cemetery (Credit: Marie Cappart, MyHeritage)

While countless celebrities are buried there, the most visited grave at Père Lachaise is that of Jim Morrison, the iconic singer of the rock band The Doors. The volume of visitors is so great that barriers were erected around his grave to protect it and its eternal neighbors. A similar glass enclosure protects the final resting place of famous 19th century author Oscar Wilde, who is also buried there. 

Oscar Wilde’s tomb, with glass enclosure (Credit: Marie Cappart, MyHeritage)

Oscar Wilde’s tomb, with glass enclosure (Credit: Marie Cappart, MyHeritage)

Throughout the cemetery there are several monuments dedicated in memory of victims of terror attacks and plane crashes. There’s also an ossuary that houses skeletal remains from cemeteries around the city, and a monument dedicated in memory of the Parisian victims of World War I.

4. Père Lachaise already had its Hollywood premiere

The famous Parisian cemetery is so iconic that it features in several movies and television series… it’s a real star! “Two Days in Paris” and “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” are among the many movies that have scenes filmed there. Père Lachaise is even featured in an episode of the popular Netflix series “Emily in Paris”.

5. It’s one of the most popular landmarks in France 

People from all over the world come to visit this famous cemetery. As you wander its rows you’ll hear a multitude of languages. On our recent visit we met tourists from Japan, Australia, New Zealand, China, and the U.S. The cemetery is also a large, beautiful park that’s perfect for an afternoon stroll. Plus, if you’re a keen genealogist you’ll discover all kinds of graves.

Père Lachaise is home to unique tombstones, sculptures, and monuments (Credit: Marie Cappart, MyHeritage)

Père Lachaise is home to unique tombstones, sculptures, and monuments (Credit: Marie Cappart, MyHeritage)

Whether you find yourself in Paris for business or pleasure, it’s worth taking a tour of this mythical cemetery which still has plenty of secrets that have yet to be revealed. 

Share your stories of Père Lachaise

Have you already visited Père Lachaise? Do you have family members buried there? We invite you to share your story with us! If you haven’t been yet but are planning a visit, be sure to capture the memories of your trip and tell us your impressions of the world’s most famous cemetery.

The post Inside Père Lachaise, the World’s Most Famous Cemetery appeared first on MyHeritage Blog.

Source: My Heritage

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