In Pere Lachaise you can see quite a few magnificent tombstones that look like little churches. Because of the custom of Catholics to bury several dead in the same place, most of the graves are family graves where many members of a family are buried for generations.
The cemetery was established in 1804 when the land at the time was outside of Paris, it was purchased by the municipality and turned into a cemetery. This was initiated by the French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte. Despite the interesting initiative, no one was eager to bury his relatives in a cemetery so far away from the city and only a few did. The cemetery's administration did not give up and conducted a campaign to promote the sale of the graves in Pere Lachaise. They moved a few authors of the period to the new cemetery, including the famous playwright Moliere. Even then celebrities attracted a lot of attention and the campaign succeeded! - Many began to bury their loved ones next to the dead celebrities of Pere Lachaise and the place became a staggering success. Today there are over 300,000 people buried there. By the way, anyone interested in visiting the graves of famous people that he admires, can buy a map of the cemetery at the main entrance and navigate around it.
Among the famous people buried in Pere Lachaise is the composer Frederic Chopin, the early filmmaker Georges Melies, the brilliant British playwright Oscar Wilde and the most important French singer Edith Piaf. All these people were buried alongside the graves of singers such as Gilbert Baku and Yves Montand, who is buried along with Simone Siniora, his wife and an actress. The most famous and adored grave amongst the young people there is the grave of the American rock idol of the 1960's, the head of the band "The Doors" Jim Morrison, who died in Paris and was buried in Père Lachaise. There is a fenced plot within the boundaries of the cemetery, separated from the rest of the tombs, which serves as a Jewish cemetery. The Rothschild family and other famous Jews are buried there.
The name of the cemetery comes from the name of Father Francois de la Séz, the confessor of King Louis the 14th.
The sight of groups of young people lighting candles and placing flowers is pretty common here, however some cases of vandalism have been seen here several times - the tomb was vandalized with graffiti and much of the vegetation around it was destroyed. The fans often left a lot of dirt and grime around the grave, so the cemetery management decided to place a guard near the grave, which helped to moderate the behavior.
The story about the grave of Oscar Wilde, the Irish poet and playwright, is sad and maybe a little funny.
Wilde died in France in 1900 and was originally buried in a small and not particularly impressive cemetery near Paris. In 1909, an obsessed fan was determined to bury him in a place worthy of his status and passed Wilde's remains to the famous Pere Lachaise cemetery.
An American sculptor named Jacob Epstein took upon himself the project of designing Wilde's tomb. The construction of the sculpture took about three years, at the end Epstein reveal ed his work - a statue of a man with precise anatomical details in an Egyptian style. Yes, the statue was completely naked, including the private areas. It was a little ironic, because Wilde, an admired Englishman and cultural hero, fell from his high status, into prison and humiliation, after being discovered being a homosexual - a serious offense in England of those days. When he left prison, poor and lonely, he moved to Paris, where he eventually died. It was not until after his death that history did him a favor that he won the iconic status of one of the greatest playwrights of all time.
In any case, the cemetery management decided to cover the sculpture's private area with a fig leaf specially designed for it. One night an anonymous fan decided to remove the leaf, but to his dismay he removed the "relevant" part of the statue along with the leaf. To this day you can find the emasculated statue...
In recent years, a two-meter high glass partition has been placed around the tomb to prevent visitors from continuing their habit of kissing the grave with lips smeared with lipstick. However, soon the glass was also stained with red lipstick. Now a fence surrounds the entire area, this time to protect the glass ..
Abelard and Heloise are one of the couples. Abelard, who was a smart scholar at the Notre Dame Cathedral, attracted many students and admirers. The priest of Paris took him to be a private tutor for the orphaned niece who grew up in his house - Heloise. She was 17 years old and he was 36, their love won and it was not long before they had a son. The angry uncle sent messengers to neuter Abelar and as a result they both ran away to different monasteries that distanced them. Despite the distance, the two did not forget each other and wrote dozens of love letters that were published over the years. Legend has it that when Heloise was buried, 22 years after her lover, he extended his hands from the grave to embrace her.
We can learn another romantic story from the grave of a young journalist named Victor Noir, who was killed by Napoleon's nephew in a duel over the heart of a girl. On his grave was a life-size bronze statue of him, with a noticeable bulge in his trousers. Due to the fact that he was not a small man, the statue has become a symbol of fertility and to this day many women come to feel the bulge, hoping to conceive and surround the sculpture with flowers and potted plants.
Another story takes place in 1871, the last rebels of the Paris commune were barricaded in the cemetery. A total of 147 rebels were executed in front of the cemetery wall on the southeast side. "The Wall of the Commune Fighters," the wall of which their brothers were murdered and buried, is still a pilgrimage site for French leftists.
300,000 people are buried in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, however there are only 100,000 tombstones.
Weird, right? - The explanation is that when a grave does not have visitors for a long time, the body is transferred to a mass grave.
This is how today's rich Parisians, who want a "private home" rather than "public housing" after their death, win. Today they pay a lot of money to buy a permanent burial place for themselves and their families.
The staff of the cemetery, which is made of about 100 people, feel the workload: they have to clean the rubbish, the graffiti and the more or less respectable souvenirs left by the tourists to the dead.