I’d like to issue a caveat for anyone just happening along this blog. This post is a continuation of a series I started at the end of last year. I’m slightly ashamed to still be winding my way through the arrondissements of Paris 8 months later, but at the same time I just love Paris so much that it’s worth it to carry this thing through to the end. In case you’d like to peruse the others, you can find them here. Now that we’ve settled that, on to the 20th arrondissement…
Way out on the edge of Paris likes the world-renown cemetery of Père Lachaise. For whatever reason I’d never been able to get myself out there for a visit, but I really think that October was the absolute perfect time to be there. The leaves had all turned a deep orange, foreboding the winter to come. Some of the trees had even begun losing their leaves already, which offered an eerie backdrop to some of the tombstones and crypts. After having ourselves a little picnic lunch on a bench with the Eiffel Tower in view, Emilie and I embarked on a morbid scavenger hunt to find a few notable figures scattered about the grounds.
Above is the grave of Pierre Abélard and Héloïse d’Argenteuil, forbidden lovers of the 12th century who had a secret marriage and were brutally punished once their rebellion was revealed. Abélard was castrated and Héloïse was forced to become a nun. Yikes. The two would remain separated until their death, when their bones were eventually laid to rest at Père Lachaise in 1817 (though this continues to be a subject of debate, as many speculate that Héloïse is buried elsewhere).
Below, the reason for my 40 page senior thesis. Thank you, Georges, for all the late nights, thrown-out ideas, stress-induced hair loss, and general anxiety during the year we spent together. (But really writing my thesis was not actually that bad…I can even say now that I’m glad to have done it!).
Above rests the man of the hour, every hour, at Père Lachaise, Jim Morrison. Below are some of the heavy-hitters of the cemetery. The first is Molière, who was orininally transferred here as part of a marketing scheme to increase the overall popularity of Père Lachaise. Upon its opening in 1804, the cemetery was considered too far from the city and as such was relatively obscure. It also was not blessed by the Roman Catholic church, deterring a great percentage of Parisians from being buried there. To amend this, administrators transferred Jean de la Fontaine and Molière onto the grounds. The scheme was a success: the next year saw 44 burials, followed by steady increases each year to come. Eager to rub elbows with the famous (albeit deceased), the cemetery grew exponentially in popularity as Parisians all but clamored to secure a position for themselves in this trendy final resting place. Now, Père Lachaise has an extensive waiting list and people may only be buried if they lived or died in the French capital. There is even a more recent practice of issuing 30-year leases for the grave sites. If a family does not renew at the end of the lease, the remains can be removed to make way for the tomb’s next inhabitant.
So much for resting in peace. At least the following tenants have no reason to fear eviction.
Tea with Balzac brings this post quite nicely to an end.