Le Cimetière du Père Lachaise (or (La) Père Lachaise as it is often abbreviated by folks wishing to avoid being caught attempting to crudely verbalize any more non-proper-name French words than entirely necessary), located smack dab in cosmopolitan Paris, France (6, rue du Repos, Paris 20e), is one of the world's most famous graveyards.

The 118-acre cemetary is named after the confessor of Louis XIV, Père François de La Chaise who lived in a Jesuit chapel on the site from 1682 until his death in 1709.

In 1804, almost a century later, the site was purchased by the City of Paris to remedy an incredible burial-place shortage (only temporarily alleviated by the charnel ossuary-catacombs beneath another part of the city) and inaugurated, in a sense, in the installation (grave-movement and re-interment) of the remains of Classical French Literature giants Jean de la Fontaine and Molière. The cachet of the graveyard only increased in 1871, when the monument to the the tragic French lovers Abélard and Héloïse (extravagantly canopied with fragments of the abbey of Nogent-sur-Seine) was moved to the site; by then the corpses-in-residence were collectively distinguished enough to act as a critical mass drawing further remains of the rich and famous, a sprinkling of (the more internationally-recognized of) whom include:

The Cemetary also features memorials for the victims of the Flossenbürg, Mauthausen, Auschwitz, Dachau and Sachsenhausen work and concentration camps in WWII.

Also of interest is the Mur des Fédérés in the eastern corner, where 147 Communards were shot upon the daybreak of May 28th, 1871 after a furious night of last-stand resistance among the gravestones. We are told that "they were buried where their bodies fell against the wall," and since 1871 the real estate within the gravesite has gotten so dear that they're probably the last to be extended such generous burial provisions.

The layout of the (remember: 118 acres of) cobbled lanes and parquets is very, er, European, in the "unplanned" sense of many European cities, so although there are indexes of who's in the area every few blocks it's recommended that you draw up a list of whose graves you intend to see and plot the most effective route to snag as many of them as possible. Without optimal routes, you could easily spend a week wandering among the dead, but with so many other worthy distractions in Paris, few travelers can afford this indulgence of time.

Guidebooks and maps are usually available at the front gate for the typically meager fee of your first-born child. To check its hours, call (presumably from within France?) 01 43 70 70 33.

A more complete list of famous people buried in the Père Lachaise, as seen on the free map distributed by the local authority :

Not in the list :
  • Malik Oussekine : young guy from Algeria beat to death by the police some 15 years ago.
  • Claude Debussy : composer

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