Pages

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Stolen artwork update

Well it appears that at least two more items have been stolen from Pere Lachaise and once form Montmartre. (It seems we can say stolen now since it's fairly obvious they are missing and the reason for their absence can be reasonably assumed to be theft.) That brings the total, I believe to at least nine pieces of artwork looted from Paris cemeteries so far.

A bust (?) of Aimée DESCLEE (division 70) is missing and so is a medallion of Henri FERNOUX (division 52). The Conversation at Pere Lachaise is looking for a photo of Fernoux so if by any chance you have a copy by all means send it along.

In Montmartre the bust of Edgard POUGET (division 5) is missing (photo below)


So far, from what I have seen and heard, it appears that artwork has been taken from at least three cemeteries so far: Montmartre, Montparnasse and Pere Lachaise.

The police are apparently involved now, at the request of the mayor of Paris, and one can only hope that the stolen items are recovered soon.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Six missing busts from Pere Lachaise

According to reports sometime in late November, at least six busts were looted from Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. The six missing busts from Pere Lachaise are:

Antoine-Edmond ADAM, by Aimé Millet sculptor (Division 54):


Antoine-Louis BARYE, by Moulin (D49):


Jean-Hilaire BELLOC, by Itasse (D52):


Jean-Baptiste BOY, artist unknown (D53):


Georges BIZET, by Paul Dubois (D68):


Claude VIGNON, sculpted by herself (D46):


Get a good look becuase you'll probably never see them again.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Missing busts update

For anyone who has followed this little tale since I first reported it here some weeks back, Pere Lachaise experts Marie and Philippe sent off a note to the mayor of Paris, and Marie also contacted the historian of Pere Lachaise. The three of us sent off a letter to the editor of the International Herald Tribune, which has been running a series of stories on the return of looted treasures; the idea being that looting of treasures continues even in the Paris cemeteries!

Lo and behold somewhere, someone in the international media got the word, at least in the UK. Click here for a link to the story:

The plot thickens.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Picpus cemetery

Marie, Philippe and I had originally scheduled to meet in Pere Lachaise Saturday afternoon to begin taping our podcasts in division 8, 9 and 10.

Well I was just about to board the Metro when Marie called and said there had been a change of plans. It seems that she and Philippe had read in the local weekly Pariscope,(a listing events throughout Paris) that there would be a special guided tour of the rarely opened crypts beneath Les Invalides (where Napoleon I is buried). Marie said they had been waiting for years for this opportunity and would I care to join them about 2 pm? You bet!

So I retraced my steps to the apartment, hung out for a while, called Susie to see how she was doing (“Fine”) and headed off towards Les Invalides (line 10 from Jussieu to the no. 13 at duroc and then off at Invalides. Simple.).

I arrived about the same as Marie – we met up in the large courtyard just as you enter the main gate (the other end from the “eglise”, the church, where Napoleon and crew are actually buried). A few minutes later Philippe arrived and soon afterwards a crowd started gathering in the courtyard, some 30-40 people eager to take the tour. It quickly became evident that the guide had a bit of a cult following in Paris and that many of the people there had already signed up via (French) word-of-mouth. We soon found ourselves left out in the cold – which it was a bit actually – although in typical Gallic uncertainty the guide informed Marie that “Maybe there’ll be room in an hour or so.”

No thanks.

I told Marie and Philippe that I would head home and after saying au revoir off I went. A few minutes later, just as I left the main entrance to the Invalides I heard someone calling out my name and I turned around to see the two of them chasing after me. “So Steve do you want to go to Picpus cemetery?” Whoa! Yeah! The cemetery is rarely open and very hard to find so I jumped at the chance, you bet.

Picpus cemetery”, you ask? Besides the funny name what’s the deal here? Well several things actually.

The cemetery is actually composed of two parts. One part is where 1,306 of the great and common people of Paris were guillotined in the June and July of 1794. The executions took place on the nearby Place de la Nation (then called the Place du Trone), some days as many as 55 people were beheaded, and the bodies were transported to the closest open space where they were dumped into mass graves. (photo below: the 2 mass graves.)




The second part is the little cemetery next to the mass graves, which holds the remains of some of France’s most well known families. Moreover, it is also the resting place of the Marquis de Lafayette. Yes, that Lafayette: “Lafayette we are here”, Lafayette, Indiana, ,Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, Fayetteville, North Carolina and on and on. I mean the man was made an honorary US citizen in 2002.



So the three of us headed for the Metro line 13 got off at the Opera stop, picked up the RER to Place de la Nation where Philippe showed me the spot where the guillotine had been set up. We then pent 15 minutes trying to find our way out of this enormous Place. At last we located the right “spoke” of the hub and soon found the little cemetery, down a small side street away (35 rue de Picpus).

After paying our fee (2 euros and change each) to the fellow at the “conservation” building he showed us to the gate, which he unlocked and let us in to wander around ourselves.

The first thing that strikes you as you enter is a long rectangular green space running deep into the block itself.


At the far side of that is the original door (some discussion here between Marie and Philippe about this), or at least the original entrance used by the carts which brought the headless bodies from the Place to the mass graves here; several dozen a day in fact. Nasty business.


There is also a small segment of the original wooden palisade that once surrounded the gravesites.


Off to the right, is the small cemetery itself, behind which is a stone wall and a locked gate, and at the far back are the two mass graves. The little cemetery is where you can find Lafayette’s grave, next to the entrance to the mass grave section, and is decorated with various markers from the United States' organizations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution.


There is also a plaque memorializing the 16 Carmelite nuns who were executed on July 24, 1794. Ranging in age from 29 to78 they went to the scaffold singing hymns as a choir, until one-by-one the last nun, still singing was executed. They were beatified in 1906.


There are also recent memorials as well. One just has to prove that a member of their family was one of the 1,306 who were originally buried in the mass graves.


From the little cemetery we walked back toward the entrance and into the small chapel near the main gate.



The interior was nearly dark except for the far back left wall of the transept which was lit up so one could read the enormous plaque listing some of all the names of those 1,306 who were executed that summer. Reading the plaques on the walls – there was another one on the opposite transept wall -- which seem to go all the way to the ceiling, and arranged by date of execution, one can’t help but feel the tragic, stupid absurdity of what happened just a few hundred meters away more than two centuries ago. I used to think of the Terror as striking mainly at the nobility – which it did certainly – but more than half of the names on these lists were simple commoners like Marie Bouchard, age 18, “domestique”or Jean Baptiste Marino, age 37, porcelain painter or Raymond Borie, age 19, shoemaker. Horrible.

We left the chapel and walked out into a light drizzle, said au revoir (again) and plan to meet up the next weekend at Pere Lachaise.

Wish you were here,

Steve

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Looting sculptures from Pere Lachaise


The series of articles in the International Herald Tribune about the Getty Museum’s ongoing struggle with the Italian government over the issue of returning “looted” artifacts certainly brings to light a practice that is probably far more widespread than most people in the art world would care to admit. In fact, one can only wonder if most artwork presently on display in museums around the world isn't looted from somewhere; certainly “ancient” artwork. And most would assume the plunder comes from the famous archeological sites: for example Greece, Rome, Persia, Egypt, Mexico, and China. (photo: Bizet is gone.)

It might come as a bit of a surprise then to learn that looting is alive and well right here in Paris in the 21st century, and in the cemeteries of all places.

Back in mid-November I reported on this blog that it appeared there were several busts missing from their headstones in Pere Lachaise cemetery. It is now confirmed that at least four busts have been stolen (that we know of) from Pere Lachaise:

- Edmond Adam, division 54 (bust by Aimé Millet)
- Jean-Hilaire Belloc, division 52 (bust by Adolphe Itasse)
- Georges Bizet, division 68 (bust by Paul Dubois)
- Claude Vignon, division 46 (self-portrait)

And Montparnasse has had at least one stolen recently:

- Cornil, division 13 (unidentified sculptor)

In Pere Lachaise a “medallion” by Chagall was stolen from the Yvan Goll headstone some time back (a copy is there now). And Jim Morrison’s bust was stolen long ago, much to the chagrin of thousands of fans.

But these recent thefts indicate a more sinister effort at work: detailed planning (during a time when stone cleaning is well underway and so there are plenty of vehicles in the cemetery, light trucks especially), and of course a market must exist somewhere.

The price of metal has reached new heights lately: this could very well account for the theft of these busts, not for their artistic value but simply because they are made of bronze… If this is the case, the busts will be melted and thus will be destroyed forever. Sad thought indeed…

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Friends of Pere Lachaise


This past Sunday I enjoyed a special treat here in Paris: a chance to explore Pere Lachaise with a couple of the cemetery's historians, Marie and Philippe. A teacher of English in Paris Marie indulges her affection for cemetery studies both in her native France and abroad -- in fact not only is she a founding member of the "Friends of Pere Lachaise" but is also a "Friend" of Kensal Green cemetery in London as well. (photo: Pere Lachaise.)

It wasn't long before Philippe joined us and I soon came to appreciate that when it came to Pere Lachaise these were two very serious people.

In fact Philippe and Marie are both genuine experts on all the Paris cemeteries. Philippe is compiling massive genealogical data from the cemeteries in addition to trying to map the Paris cemeteries using Google Earth, although he told me that the trees in Montmartre and Pere Lachaise are posing a serious challenge to him. I suspect he'll work that out too.

We arranged to meet at 1:30 and Marie was right on time. While we waited for Philippe we chatted a bit, and quickly discovered that we both of the same mind on how important it is to record the histories, the stories which lie buried just beyond the wall on rue Menilmontant.

Pretty soon Philippe arrived carrying a large bundle of maps and cemetery burial books. Marie brought with her maps dating back to 1820 (the cemetery was opened in 1804), as well as 1878 and a couple of 19th century guides to boot. And they were totally and completely dedicated to learning everything possible about Pere Lachaise; indeed they seemed hungry to find something new, something they hadn't seen before.

And here they were willing share their knowledge and expertise with me. I couldn't wait! So off we went!

Sunday afternoon was crisp, brisk and we had a grand time exploring. I had come prepared with a list of questions; in fact I had emailed them to Marie the day before. While we chatted waiting for Philippe she pretty much answered my technical questions and so the three of us spent the next couple of hours roaming through the cemetery, looking for some of my "problem" cases, which they helped me locate. Me: "Where's So-and-so in division whatever?" "Oh, him, right over here." Bam! There it was.

They were also gracious and kind enough to show me some of the special burials. No, not the famous musicians who for some inexplicable reason got buried at Pere Lachaise but the truly special ones: like little Adelaide the first burial in the cemetery (1804), or the "dragoon" whose cenotaph marks the first stone sculpture (1807) placed in the cemetery (his body remained in Poland where he died).

Adelaide (div. 42):



"The Dragoon (Dragon", div. 29):





As it started to get dark we stopped for the day. Leaving the cemetery the way we came in, across from the Pere Lachaise Metro stop, we popped into a cafe literally around the corner. Over coffee we talked about the possiblity of future visits to the cemetery. I asked if they would consider doing a series of pocasts on Pere Lachaise and the answer was a resounding YES!

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Missing in Pere Lachaise

This past week I discovered that three busts are missing from their graves:

Edmond Adam in div. 54 (bust by Aime Millet)

Claude Vignon in div. 46 (real name Noemie Rouvier, she did her own)

Hilaire Belloc in div. 52

It may be that they were removed for cleaning (right) or it may be that there is a substantial market for these things somewhere. I suppose we'll have to say goodbye. . .

Edmond Adam:

Hilaire Belloc:

Claude Vignon:

Monday, November 13, 2006

Corrections to my review

After meeting with Pere Lachaise historians Marie and Philippe and touring the cemetery with them on Sunday, I’d like to make several corrections/additions to my November 6 entry regarding the Culbertson/Randall book, Permanent Parisians:

1. Louis Lamaire is in div. 1, but no pyramid just a small sarcophagus tomb.

2. Regarding the great French statesman Charles Talleyrand in div. 31: he is in fact buried at his chateau in Valencay in the Loire valley. This (unmarked) mausoleum reportedly contains an member of the large Talleyrand-Perigord family.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Paris cemeteries online

If you've followed this blog at all you know that since early August I've been wandering through the cemeteries in Paris, documenting the statuary and the history of France as told through it's most prestigious burial grounds. During that time I've also spent quite a bit of time online looking for information relevant to the cemeteries in Paris, and have listed below those which seemed to offer the best information, photos and maps. Most sites, particularly the ones in English cover the Top Five cemeteries, which includes the Big Three of Pere Lachaise, Montmartre and Montparnasse and then St. Vincent's and Passy. Note that some also have a links page ("liens") as well.

With the exception of the Wikipedia sites virtually all are in French with very limited English provided. (photo: division 8 in Passy cemetery.)

Oh, and if you have any suggestions I’d be happy to include them here.

Wikipedia is a great place to start, covering some dozen or so cemeteries within historic Paris. It also has a link here to the burials at Pere Lachaise. In English.

Lescemetieres.com has lots of photos and, most importantly, good online maps as well as histories of Pere Lachaise, Montmartre and Montparnasse among others. In French with some English.

The Dutch website Meijsen.net is another good place to look online with handy interactive maps. In Dutch.

For specific cemeteries:

"The Friends of Pere Lachaise" is one of the best sites I've found so far with tons of helpful information about the cemetery, and in addition to photos and gravesite listings you can find old photos, postcards and very nice artwork. There are also several pages with information about various nationalities represented in the cemetery. In French.

Another website that also has plenty of information online as well as interesting topics such as artwork, postcards and books is lachaise.gargl.net. In French.

For English-speaking audiences Wikipedia is probably the best all-around source for information.

Pere-lachaise.com has a truly cool and very good online interactive map. In English and French.

Interestingly, there are two websites devoted to looking at how the female form is presented in funerary statuary in Pere Lachaise: Eternelle and Femmes du Pere Lachaise. The former has an odd way of presenting thumbnails, flattened almost to the point of being unrecognizable. The latter site is clean and straightforward. Both in French.

Parisrama.com is another site in French and (poor) English but with nice old photos, which unfortunately are largely obscured by the clunky watermarking.

Montparnasse cemetery

Montmartre cemetery

Passy cemetery is my personal favorite, in the shadow of the Eiffel tower and so small and yet so filled with great works of art.

If you're looking for information on tiny Calvaire cemetery near Sacre Coeur, click here. The site is in French only, the photos are rough and unedited but there is plenty of text about one of Paris' oldest cemeteries.

Headstones.fsnet.co.uk is a website focusing on b & w photo collections from the Big Three (Pere Lachaise, Montmartre and Montparnasse) and Passy and St. Vincent cemeteries. (Many photos are unlabeled and unlocated however.)

And last but by no means least is the superb website operated by the American Battle Monuments Commission, which covers American National Cemeteries on foreign soil.

Check out gravestonestudies.org for a broader view about cemetery studies.


(photo: division 14 in Passy cemetery.)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Permanent Parisians -- a review

This is a review I wrote on Amazon.com of Permanent Parisians: an Illustrated Guide to the Cemeteries of Paris, by Judi Culbertson and Tom Randall (Robson Books, 1986).

I can’t help but agree with the other reviewers on Amazon.com: this book is entertaining and certainly the only serious guide in English to the cemeteries of Paris.

The fact that I was disappointed in their failure to include either of the two major cemeteries in Florence in their Italian book, in particular delle Porte Sante, the resting place of Collodi as well as stunning funerary sculpture, did not preclude me from using their volume Permanent Italians while living in Italy this past year. And after moving to Paris in August of 2006 I was lucky enough to find a used copy of their Permanent Parisians (1986 edition); I then set about documenting the statuary in the cemeteries of Paris.

At first I started out my research in Parisian cemeteries using only the “tours” outlined in the Culbertson/Randall book, and with one exception found their maps are right on the money. (The one exception is a small but important point: on the map of tour no. 4 of Pere Lachaise in division 89, the Delage family, listed as “J”, should actually be located in the center of the division not at the corner).

Some weeks later, while poking around a local bookstore I came across Bertrand Beyern’s Guide des tombes des homes celebres (2005, in French only). Beyern, a local tour guide of Parisian cemeteries, has documented many of the major personalities in cemeteries throughout France, not just in Paris, and is one of the leading authorities on Pere Lachaise, the primary focus of my work. I also discovered the excellent map of Pere Lachaise produced by “Editions Metropolitain”, and available for purchase just outside the entrance to the cemetery. Those resources along with the half-dozen or so superb French websites covering Parisian cemeteries proved very helpful in locating specific individuals. It was after the first several weeks of my work in Pere Lachaise, as well as a number of other cemeteries in the city that I realized there were a number of problems with the Culbertson/Randall book.

(Unfortunately, their publisher, Robson Books, an imprint of Anova Books, never responded to my request to contact the authors. I suspected that some of the problems I discovered might have arisen since their book was written some 20 years and thought a correspondence might have been of some help here.)

Naturally time changes things: earth shifts, things move, and sometimes graves disappear in cemeteries. For example, one of the most striking monuments in Passy cemetery as described in both Culbertson/Randall and Beyern is that of Antoine Cierplikowski. Unfortunately the stone is, well, gone. Not just the statue but also the entire grave.

And even the headstones themselves occasionally change over time. In division 22 of Montmartre cemetery Culbertson/Randall describe the dancer Nijinksy’s grave as under a “plain arched stone”, when in fact today there is a fantastic life-size sculpture of the deceased in what appears to be a harlequin outfit.

There were a few typos. Douvin in div. 32 of Montmartre should in fact be Dauvin; and the correct spelling of the name is in even in their photo on p. 129. In St. Vincent’s cemetery they list the statue over the tomb of Rene and Jean Dumesnil, when in fact it should read Rene and Jeanne. (Jean is a man’s name, Jeanne is a woman; a rather important distinction here). This is the same statue found on the cover of their 1986 edition. I also found it curious that the photo of Theodore Gericault in division 12 of Pere Lachaise was reversed.

I also thought it odd they didn’t mention the famous American silent film star Pearl White (as in the Perils of Pauline) who is buried in Passy.

On a more serious level I found the tendency of Culbertson/Randall to mention individuals in the text and then not place them on their maps quite frustrating. Frankly I thought that was sloppy and made me wonder if was less a guidebook than a series of amusing anecdotes about famous and the near famous buried in Paris.

Passy is also my favorite cemetery in Paris: the unique statuary and fantastic stories, all packaged together into such a small place that is hardly ever visited by the tourists, is a real treat. But Passy symbolizes one of the oddest problems with the Culbertson/Randall book: their map of the cemetery is wrong. Or rather it is their divisional layout that bears little resemblance to the actual official cemetery layout today. The authors have, however, placed their “persons’ correctly on the map it’s just the numbers for each division that is incorrect. Strange.

In St. Vincent’s cemetery, on the other hand, the authors failed to use the official division layout. There are online resources here that will serve the visitor much better here.

But it is in Pere Lachaise cemetery that the largest number of errors appeared (all page references from the 1986 edition).

Division 1: (p. 10) They list Gustave Froment and Louis Lemaire; yet they don’t seem to be there. In fact they mention that Lemaire has a pyramid resembling the one on the $1 bill and there is no pyramid in division 1 (with the exception of the “Machado de Gama”).

Division 3: (p. 10) The authors refer to Marie Lenormand when it should in fact be Mademoiselle Lenormand (small point I know).

Division 6: (p. 15) They describe the tomb of Ferdinand de Lesseps (builder of the Suez canal) as “pyramid-shaped”. See if you think it looks like a pyramid. Send me a note and I’ll send you a photo of the tomb.

Page 24: They have a cool little photo here, which I assume they took, but I no idea where they took it: in Pere Lachaise, in Paris where?

Division 12: (p. 28) Serious problem here. The tomb they describe as belonging to Charles Lafont, the one with a man reclining holding a woman’s face is in his hands, which is across from Talma, actually belongs to Frederick Arbelot and is in division 11, not 12. Lafont is indeed in div. 12 but the other direction from Talma, and closer to Gericault.

Division 12: (p. 30) As already noted the photo of Gericault is reversed.

Division 18: (p. 36) The authors have placed Kellermann in 18 when in fact he belongs in div. 30. In fairness the delineation between the two divisions is confusing.

Division 19: (p. 37) They have placed Dr. Joseph Guillotin (yes that Guillotin) here, near Dr. Hahnemann although there is no other source reporting his burial in this division. Only the “Friends of Pere Lachaise” website lists him as in fact in a long-abandoned tomb in division 7. Take your pick. Here again is an example of the problem that can result from authors not locating everyone on the map.

Division 31: (p. 48) Charles de Talleyrand-Perigord. The authors claim he has his own area all by himself – but I’m at a loss to know what they mean by “area”. There is a very large mausoleum located in division 31 which fits the spot on their tour map. The problem is that there are no markings on the mausoleum to denote Talleyrand or Perigord or anyone else for that matter. Furthermore, while the “Editions Metropolitain” map does list one Alexandre de Talleyrand-Perigord no other source mentions this burial. Not even the official cemetery map lists a Talleyrand buried in the cemetery, let alone in div. 31. Moreover, Beyern claims that Charles is buried at his chateau at Valencay in the Loire valley.

Division 54: (p. 61) It is Charles not Auguste de Morny.

Division 67: (p. 66) In regards to the story about Marie Walewska’s “hand” on display, inside the locked mausoleum, it is in fact her heart not her hand which is buried in the tomb with her second husband, the Comte D’Orano. Her remains were sent back to Poland. In any case the authors failed to mention that her son, Alexandre Walewski (different spelling from his mother Marie) and the son of Napoleon I is buried in division 66.

Division 71: (p. 68) Regarding the spectacular story about balloonists Croce-Spinelli and Sivel, the authors fail to mention that the survivor of that ill-fated trip aboard the Zenith, and who would go on to become quite famous in the world of high-altitude ballooning, Gaston Tissandier, is buried in division 27.

Division 87: (p. 75) The Columbarium is in fact not a crematorium (a separate structure altogether) but the place where the urns of ashes are located in niches specifically designed for that purpose. Since there are tens of thousands of niches in the Columbarium in Pere Lachaise the visitor must have the niche number or you will simply never find a specific individual. Sadly the authors only locate Isadora Duncan by number – although they do mention the pair of holding hands which is quite nice.

In any case the “Edition Metropolitain”map of Pere Lachaise can provide the visitor with the numbers for diva Maria Callas (16258), even though her ashes were in fact spread on the Aegean Sea, and for American author Richard Wright (848), jazz musician Stephane Grappelli (417) and a number of other well-known internationally known figures.

Certainly much of the Culbertson and Randall book is true, accurate, enlightening and entertaining. But the existence of so many errors and inattention to detail is nevertheless disturbing.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Latest news

The good news is that the leaves are falling off the trees in the cemeteries here, making photography and research that much easier. Having said that I will miss the full foliage found on many of the old stones here. They are truly a wonderful thing to behold, the old, the ruined, the stone that man forgot but which is now taken over by nature. Amazing.

Another bit of good news is that I’ve finally got a website online, www.pariscemeteries.com.

Stop by take and look and let me know what you think!

Right now the site consists primarily of photos but I will be making some major changes to its structure later this fall. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! (photo: Montrouge cemetery.)

The bad news (sort of) if that I have had to return to Pere Lachaise to redo all my previous work.

That’s right.

Everything I did last August, hundreds of images, were deleted from my hard drive and very few of them were recoverable (using Prosoft’s Data Rescue II). So starting yesterday (Tuesday) I’ve been returning to Pere Lachaise to reshoot everything. But there is a silver lining in all this.

First, I’m far more systematic now. I’m going division-by-division, starting with no. 1 and sticking firmly to that. Second, since I have already spent quite a few days at Pere Lachaise I am already very familiar with the place of course, and by not having a firm agenda – I mean I do know the images I want to replace naturally – I am spending more time in each division and have already found three graves I had looked for on several occasions before. And finally, I wanted to return later in the fall in any even so here I am!

As for the statues of my work in the cemeteries of Paris, to date I’ve visited every cemetery on the left bank (within the 20 arrondisement plan of the city) at least once:

Montparnasse (14th), Vaugirard (15th, Grenelle (15th), Montrouge (14th), and Gentilly (13th). I’ve been to Montparnasse at least seven or eight times so far. Vaugirard and Grenelle are definitely worth a stop if you’re in that neighborhood (they are quite close to one another) but I recommend you go in the morning for the light. Montrouge and Gentilly are at the periphery of historic Paris; Montrouge is the easier of the two to get to by Metro and has some fairly remarkable statuary. (photo right: Grenelle cemetery.)

On the right bank, I have visited so far:

Pere Lachaise (20th), Passy (16th), Montmartre (18th), and tiny St. Vincent’s (18th).

So far I have been to Pere Lachaise more than two dozen times, Passy several times and Montmartre probably 10 times or so. I strongly recommend a serious stop at any one or all of these. Passy is small but full of outstanding, quirky and fascinating statuary and sculpture, while the tiny St. Vincent’s is an easy 10-minute walk from Montmartre so they can both be done together. St. Vincent’s is another one you might want to hit in the morning for the light. Naturally Pere Lachaise remains the number one cemetery destination in Paris both for the wondrous sculpture, diverse physical layouts which produce almost mythical settings of ruins juxtaposed with foliage amidst natural settings just begging to be photographed, and of course the famous people just waiting to meet you.

There are about five or six others on the right bank I need to visit. I'll keep you posted.

Wish you were here,

Steve

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Passy cemetery

A little less than 5 acres in size, Passy cemetery (opened in 1820), like St. Vincent in the 18th arr., is small, intimate and yet with much of the same characteristics found in the larger cemeteries in Paris: the look and feel of a necropolis, long avenues marked by benches, shading trees, and fantastic sculpture full of pathos, humor and life even in death. But unlike the Big Three cemeteries, Passy feels like a small village rather than a city, making you feel as if you were in a city whose inhabitants have all just stepped out to lunch. (photo: "Lolita" in division 2.)

Located just behind the Palais de Chaillot in the Trocadero area the cemetery is easily reached by Metro (Trocadero stop). (In fact the architect of the rather unattractive decaying hulk of the Palais, Jacque Carlu is buried in Passy.)

Culbertson/Randall is unfortunately of little help here. Apparently when the authors visited Passy preparing the 1986 edition of their guide they found that the cemetery was "not officially divided into sections” and as a result produced their own division numbering layout “to facilitate touring.” Today, however the cemetery is divided up into divisions which are clearly located on the official cemetery map – along with the ubiquitous large map near the entrance as well. And believe me a map here is essential as there are neither division markers nor any street signs in the cemetery proper. I also used Bertrand Beyern’s “Guide des tombes d’hommes celebres” which is a big help – he provides both a clear listing division-by-division of the well known buried here as well as a nice map of his own. (photo: I read somewhere that the tower was originally painted bright yellow.)

After Pere Lachaise Passy is most certainly my favorite cemetery and given its location and manageable size – not much larger than some outdoor galleries – I urge you to try and spend an hour or so wandering around here. You won’t regret it.

For a space this small, in the very shadow of the Eiffel tower, some truly remarkable people are buried here:

Composers Claude Debussy, Gabriel Faure, aviators Henry Farman, Maurice Bellonte and Dieudonne Costes, actresses Pearl White (of “Perils of Pauline” fame) and Jane Henriot (‘she came, she smiled, she left”), Bao Dai the last emperor of Vietnam, impressionist Edouard Manet, Marcel Renault (yes one of the Renault briothers who founded the company), Princess Leila Pahlevi, a daughter of the last shah of Iran. (photo: Jane Henriot in division 15.)

Also buried here are folks whose names are largely unknown but whose memorials are a testament to their wit and imagination: Harry Sharon, Albert Laurans, the Sander family, the de Sa Valle family, the Madrenas y Satorres family, Adelaide Boisseree and the enigmatic bit of stone over the family of Jose de Saz Cabellero:


To see these and other photos, just click here!

One curious note here. Culbertson/Randall, as well as Beyern and Fred Sofi in his website list a large, striking piece of sculpture over the tomb of Antoine Cierplikowsi; Sofi even notes that the piece was done by X. Dunikowski (although Xavera Dunikowski the Polish sculptor died in 1964, some 12 years before Cierplikowski). The photo of this sculpture in Culbertson/Randall is powerful indeed – unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be there any longer. In fact, the cemetery does not list it on its map nor have I been able to glean any information from them about what happened. Maybe you know?

St. Vincent's cemetery

Although one of the smaller, more intimate burying grounds in historic Paris St. Vincent cemetery (opened in 1831) is recommended in the Culbertson/Randall book. (The authors refer to it as “the size of a sheet cake” and it’s really true.) Given the cemetery’s location in Montmartre, in a niche cut into the backside of Sacre Coeur it would also figure nicely into anyone’s walking tour through that part of the city. In fact you can walk up Rue Caulaincourt from Montmartre. Just watch out for Rue Lucien-Gaulard on your right, which is the entrance to the cemetery. Or you can take the Metro, and get off at the Lamarck stop. Upon exiting turn around 180 degrees and walk up the stairs to Place Pecqueur; Rue Gaulard is just across the street on your left. (photo: soaring statue above Rene Dumesnil.)

There is a WC and office on your left as soon as you enter the cemetery. There were no maps available when I went – and according to Culbertson/Randall no official division of the cemetery is noted although Bertrand Beyern actually lists divisions in his classic “Guides des Tombes d’hommes celebres.” In any case, there is no large public map either, which is usually the case in most Parisian cemeteries. That said you might just want to stroll around this quaint little place, as there are some surprises here indeed – although I didn’t wax as enthusiastic about this as Culbertson/Randall; “it contains some of the most surprising statuary in Paris” was a bit strong. Still it is worth the stop.

As soon as you enter the cemetery on your right the rather striking bit of sculpture over the tomb of caricaturist Candido Faria (7th division) and almost directly ahead of you, in what is certainly a standout position here is the fantastic sculpture found over the tomb of music critic Rene Dumesnil (8th division). And the next path up (running parallel with the main street) you will find the tomb of poets Papoue and Platon Argyriades (13th division): a quaint little “dollhouse” and peering out form the large glass picture window is a young couple, a man and a woman, presumably Platon and Papoue. Don’t miss it.

There’s plenty more to see here so spend a while and browse. You won’t regret it.

You can see more photos online; just click here!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Montmartre

At about half the size of Montparnasse, the 28 acres of Montmartre cemetery, tucked into the folds of an old quarry, present an easy afternoon stroll. And with the busy Rue Caulaincourt passing directly over the entrance off of Rue Rachel the cemetery seems to be a bit less melancholy than either Montparnasse or Pere Lachaise. Still as you wander around you will inevitably stumble upon the tiny fragments of people's lives, fragments though which are designed to leave a permanent claling card of who they were and why you should remember them. (photo: Robert Didsbury tomb in division 21.)

To get to Montmartre get off at the Place Blanche metro (line 2) and walk a block or so westward and on your right you will see Rue Rachel. The entrance is at the end of this very short block. Stop at the guard shack at the entrance and ask for "un plan sil vous plait." The map isn't terribly detailed but it does provide at least division numbers and a general idea as to where a person is buried in the division. Oh, and there is a WC just around the corner on your left as you enter; but these facilities are neither clean nor well-stocked with the barest of necessities so be prepared! (photo: the dancer Nijinsky in division 22.)

In finding your way around the cemetery not only provides a handy map but has also placed large maps throughout the cemetery so you can use them to refer to if necessary. You can also use the Culbertson/Randall tour map if you have their book -- they tend to highlight smaller dividing pathways so it's a bit easier to fix your location at nay given time. Of course most of the major monuments and more famous individuals will be found fairly close to the larger roadways. (photo: Ludmila Tcherina in division 29.)

Upon entering the cemetery you can either turn left toward divisions 15 and 33, go straight ahead todivisions 17 (right) and 31 (left) or you can do what I did and turned hard right and walk up the steps to division 1 (with 17 and then 18 on your left). This is a short walk -- in fact it is an impasse -- but well worth the effort and backtracking. You get a pretty grand view of at least the near parts of the cemetery and then there are seveal of the most fantastic sculptures in the cemetery. Tehy don't recall famous people -- well not broadly so -- but you need to at least stop by the Laurecisque family (division 1) and see the three members of the family (19th century) in their coffins, upright with, now get this, thgeir toes poking out from undrneath! Plus their histories are neatly incribed and even if your Frnech is weak you'll pretty much get the picture.

Also in division 1 in Guy Pitchal who certainly had a keen eye for perspective. You can see him smoking a pipe but his bust is in effect inverted and no matter where you stand he seems to be looking at you. Fantastic. And across the path in division 18 is "Dalida", the singer Yolande Gigliotti who will forever be beautiful.

You can see photos of these and many more online by just clicking here.

As for me I spent my first day "circumnavigating" the cemetery (division 1 to 2 to 3,4, 56, 7, 8. 9, and 10-16) and then working my way inward. I finished on the second day.

The cemetery is open 7 days a week. From November to March hours are Mon-Fri 8-5:30, Sat 8:30-5:30 and Sun and holidays 9-5:30; from March to November the opening hours are the same but cemetery closes at 6 pm every evening. (photo below: Alphonse Baudin in division 27.)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Montparnasse

Montparnasse was originally called the “southern cemetery” of Paris, and is divided by rue Emile Richard, which effectively cuts it into two sections.

This division is described by Culbertson/Randall as “old” and “new” sections, with the “old” section being the smaller of the two, whereas Bertrand Beyern's Guide des Tombes d'hommes celebres, refers to the "old" section as the "petit" or small cemetery. For our purposes we'll stick with Culbertson/Randall.) In effect divisions 17, 19, and 25-27 all have both “new” and “old” parts. A quick glance at the map provided by the cemetery office will show you how this works. (photo: grave of Alain Leseiutre in division 1.)

And speaking of maps, the only one available is that provided by the cemetery. If you are looking for someone not on the map and inquire at the office you will need to know a date of death as well as the name.

At half the size of Pere Lachhaise and laid out in a much more orderly fashion, Montparnasse feels and indeed looks like a typical cemetery. Streets are laid out at (mostly) right angles, and divisions appear easily marked. At first glance you might think it will be a breeze finding your way around. Looks can be deceiving, however, and Montparnasse is no exception.

The singular problem at Montparnasse is that the lines separating the divisions are often faint if not impossible to discern. Divisions 10-13 and 9-6 run very close together, with a thin, virtually nonexistent line separating one from the other. You will have to spend some time acquainting yourself with the layout and how one section connects with one another in order to use the maps effectively – and particularly if you are looking for several or more individuals. I continued using the Culbertson/Randall book (1986 edition) and found their maps to be a bit more helpful since they at least tried to lay out the smaller alleyways which sort of subdivided divisions. (photo: grave of Cesar Baldichinni in division 6.)

Montparnasse is the resting place for several individuals whose fame transcends French borders. Cesar Franck, Camille Saint-Saens, the American actress Jean Seberg, French photographer Man Ray, Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, Statue of Liberty designer Frederic Bartholdi, flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal, writer Charles Baudelaire and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.

Others worthy of a stop for their fantastic sculptures marking: aviatrice Maryse Bastie (division 6), Cesar (Baldicchini in division 3), Honore Champion (division 3), Antoine Etex (division 7), de Max’s "separation of a couple” (division 4), Henri Laurens (also division 7), Charles Sainte-Beuve (division 17), and Baudelaire’s cenotaph between division 26 and 27 (new cemetery).

Probably the most controversial gravesite in Montparnasse – if not in all of Paris – is that of former French army office Alfred Dreyfus. Tried for treason on trumped up charges the case became a cause celebre marking the highpoint (or rather low point) in corrupt French politics framed by Emile Zola’s famous ‘J’accuse” directed at the very cornerstone of the rot in the system, Felix Faure gross army incompetence and latent anti-Semitism, all issues which would continue to plague France until well into the 20th century and beyond. Curiously Alfred’s grave cannot be presently located or at least the headstone seems to be missing. (Oh and if you're wondering, Felix Faure is buried in Pere Lachaise, laid out just as he was when he died in his mistress's bed). (photo: de Max's "separation of a couple" in division 4.)

Less well known and not marked in the Culbertson/Randall book but still worth a look are:

- an angel holding a young woman over the grave of Alain Lesieutre (division 1)
- pair of enormous hands holding a cross at Robert Thibier’s grave (division 2)
- a woman forever dropping flowers onto a grave (division 3)
- Charles Blech’s grave with a woman seated wearing a veil (division 4)
- Laurent Simonpaoli’s bold sculpture (division 6)
- “Ricardo’s” big toy (division 6)
- the chessboard over world chess champion Alexander Alekhine (division 8)
- Pierre Felix de Morant’s bust and his death mask on the same stone (division 9)
- the touching Milik monument (division 10)
- Rene and Marcelle Combe’s monument to each other (division 10)
- Valentine Lecomte du Nuoy reclining for eternity (divison 13)
- statuette holding the stone down over the De Dieu Anglade family (division 13)
- the woman holding the wall back over the Bartlett family (division 12/13)
- the disturbing piece over Leopold Kretz (division 14)
- the enormous insect holding forth in division 18 (right along Avenue de l’Est)
- Rene Marchand’s insouciant monument which is
- next to Charles Pigeon reading (?) to his wife in bed (division 22)
- the diminutive angel mourning for Albert Coet (division 22)
- Jenny Mewes and her family (division 26 new)
- a uniformed Nicolai Roussev striding and carrying a bugle (division 26 old)
- the Morice family (division 26 old)
- Nancy Fleury’s name being written forever (division 27 new)
- woman reading to child at the Barboux monument (division 28)
- the mystery of Claude Jauberthie and her signaling quiet (division 28)
- angel with horn at the Touzet family (division 29)
- yet another woman sleeping for eternity (division 29)
- the Wallon family and their awesome mosaics (division 29)
- the poignancy of the Dudzhik & Mimran monument (division 29)
- kissing mama (?) goodbye at the Maillols’ monument (division 29)
- and Armand Cahen’s art deco pavilion (division 30).

I have posted a wide vaariety of photos from Montparnasse online. You can see them by simply clicking here.

If you have any questions, corrections or suggestions about the cemetery by all means send it on. Not even the dead stay put forever.

Next up -- Montmartre cemetery!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Touring the cemetery

You’ve got your lunch, water, good shoes, camera, and made your bathroom stop. Now it’s time to start exploring.

Every year hundreds of thousands of people pass through the cemetery – temporarily of course – looking for some of the famous and nearly famous, or maybe they want to pay homage to a hero or inspiration. Whatever the reason this cemetery is one of the major tourist stops in Paris to be sure. (photo: Joaquin Maria de Errazu in division 68.)

From my experience I would say there are at least three kinds of visitors to Pere Lachaise. First are the Parisians themselves who enjoy strolling through the cemetery or meeting friends for lunch in front of the chapel with a view of the Eiffel tower.

Second are the “casual tourists” who come to Pere Lachaise because it’s in their guidebook and they want to find the graves of Jim Morrison (of the Doors fame) and Frederick Chopin (of the Chopin fame). Of course much of a site’s popularity often depends upon nationality. For example, the French gravitate to Colette, Marie Trintignant and Gilbert Becaud among others, while the Italians seek out composers Victor Bellini and Giochinno Rossini (even though their remains were long ago returned to Italy). And the number of people from all over the world who visit the grave of “spiritist” Allan Kardec is pretty astounding. (“Allan who?” you ask.)

Third are the “serious tourists”, those people who have their map (or maps) in hand along with pen or pencil and are determined to find as many famous or, if not famous, as many unique grave markers as they possibly can. The serious ones usually work alone whereas the casual tourists roam in pairs or even large groups.

Deciding which kind of visitor will of course determine how you tour the cemetery.

I decided I was going to spend at least a week – and indeed it became rather longer than that in any event – enough time to roam freely, stepping off the main streets whenever the urge moved me or I saw something in the distance that might warrant up close investigation, to explore the divisions in detail.

In fact I had several objectives: I wanted to find many of the famous to be sure; I also wanted to find the more unique grave markers as well, and at the same time I wanted to photograph many of the unique aspects of the cemetery: the tumbled, ruins, the beautiful foliage covered old stones, the streets of this “city of the dead”, I wanted to see as much of the cemetery as possible and photograph as much as I possibly could.(photo: Louis Viscounti in division 4.)

What do you want to see?

I know of no better "by-the-numbers" guidebook than Culbertson/Randall's multi-tour approach to Pere Lachaise for those who want to maximize their limited time or just want to touch the "highpoints". For everone else, I suggest you do what I did: just grab a map and start exploring. At first you'll find yourself in divisions of the cemetery which are orderly and well-structured. If you come in the main entrance you will want to start with division 4 which has some of the most striking sculpture in the cemetery. But don't miss division 2 just to the right of the entrance: wander around for a few moments and you won't be disappointed. From there just follow your map and head to division 7 and the worlds beyond.

If you come in off of Place Gambetta you will be faced at once with a short street lined with poignant monuments dedicated to the various groups who have fought for France in years past: Czechs, Poles, Armenians, Italians, Russians, located just inside the entrance. But then turn left (from the entrance) down Avenue Circulaire and stroll along and you will soon find (with your map of course) Oscar wilde, Gertrude Stein -- and nearby the enormous statue of General Andranik of Armenia.

A bit further along Avenue Circulaire you will come to the powerful reminders that tens of thousands of Jews died in the Nazi death camps during the Second World War, and the memorials found along this bit of cobblestone are a testament to their memory: Dachau, Auschwitz, Ravensbruck and others, all in or opposite of division 97. Incredible. Nearby you will also see the part of the cemetery wall where some 140 communards were shot in May of 1871 after being chased through the cemetery and cornered here. And almost opposite from the wall is the grave of Laura marx Lafargue, the daughter of, that's rioght, Karl Marx. She and her husband committed suicide. Who knows why.

But eventually you will want yo work your way around to those divisions that beg you to get off the paths, walk around behind the overgrowth, wandering around aimlessly: particularly the areas between Avenue Transversale 1 and Avenue de la Chappelle (divisions 47-55 and 67-71) and then divisions 17-31, 8-13 and 39-40. You'll figure it out.

To help get you started click here to see my favorite spots.

Pere Lachaise introduction

Hours. From 16 March to 5 November the cemetery is open Monday-Friday, 8am-6pm, 8:30am-6pm on Saturdays and 9am-6pm on Sundays; from 6 November to 15 March cemetery hours are Monday-Friday 8am-5:30pm, Saturday 8:30am-5:30pm and Sunday 9am-5:30pm. Free admission. (photo left: detail from the Gibout family gravesite in division 48.)

The Cemetery. Originally the site of a Jesuit hospice, the cemetery eventually passed into the hands of the government and under
Napoleon I was opened as the “Eastern Cemetery” (since it is located in the eastern part of the city) in 1804. It was named after Father (“Pere”) Lachaise, one of the more illustrious of the Jesuits who spent his last years where the chapel now stands and who had been Louis XIV’s confessor. It is sited on a hill overlooking Paris. Commanding some of the finest views of the city, it extends over more than 100 acres making it one of the largest cemeteries in the city. The cemetery is indeed as the Rough Guide notes, “a veritable ‘city of the dead’”, with its cast-iron signposts and cobbled streets. And although much of the northeastern third of the cemetery is laid out in grid pattern, the majority of the cemetery is a series of curving, weaving streets, which seem to go nowhere and yet everywhere.

Getting there. You could drive but then you’d be insane. By bus you can take the nos. 61, 69 or 96 bus By Metro you can take either the number 2 or number 3 lines. (photo left: Guillame Debufe in division 10.)

If you’re on the number 2 you can get off at either Pere Lachaise or Phillipe Auguste; while from the number 3 you can get off at either Pere Lachaise or Gambetta. The Pere Lachaise stop puts you at the northern corner of the cemetery and you can enter directly across from the metro exit – there is also a florist shop right next door selling maps to the cemetery (see below about the maps) and often a man right at the entrance hawking them as well. If you get off at the Phillipe Auguste stop you walk around the corner to your right as you exit the Metro onto Blvd Phillipe Auguste and the main entrance is a just a few meters on your right.

If you take the number 3 to Gambetta look for the Pere Lachaise exit from the underground, and upon surfacing there will be a large sign pointing you right to the cemetery entrance two short blocks away. There are several nice cafes along the way if you need coffee and croissant. I also like to enter from Gambetta since this puts you at the “top” of the cemetery and you can then wend you way down and exit on Blvd de Menilmontant.

There is also a fourth, and more remote entrance at Rue de la Reunion.

Getting around. Finding your way around the cemetery can prove a serious challenge. The cemetery is broken up into nearly 100 divisions, some very large others quite small, some in a neat grid pattern, others that twist and turn, curve and expand and contract on a whim. Although the streets and walkways are well signposted, be aware that there are absolutely no signs directing you to any of the graves so by all means pick up a good map. The cemetery does not provide maps at any of the entrance gates; you have to go to the “conservation” building near the main entrance on Blvd Menilmontant to pick up information and maps. However, the cemetery’s map lacks any real detail to help you wander around this enormous park. So stop at any of the florist shops at the Gambetta entrance or the one next to the small entrance across from the Pere Lachaise Metro stop (€2). As you exit the Pere Lachaise Metro there is a news kiosk that also sells maps (€2.50) (photo above: Croce-Spinelli and Sivel, two balloonists who perished by asphyxiation when the air grew too thin as they cruised over India, in division 71.)

To further complicate matters there are different two maps: the “Editions Vermet”, which is white with large glossy pictures on one side, and which sells for €2 and (€2.50 at the news kiosk); and the “Editions Metropolitain Paris” (€2 ) which I strongly recommend. Unlike the “Vermet” this one gives you a metro map, a brief history of the cemetery (in several languages including English), nice detail, is well laid out and produced and, the clincher, provides far larger number of burial sites. For example, this map actually gives you the niche numbers in the Columbarium whereas “Vermet” does not (with the exception of Maria Callas). Without that information you would spend the rest of your life looking for Richard Wright or Isadora Duncan.

In any case, I strongly urge you to pick up a map before entering the cemetery.

Finding graves in Pere Lachaise can be tricky and certainly a trying experience. If you are just a casual visitor looking for one or two or three graves then by all means rely on the map in your guidebook (assuming you have one of course). The Rough Guide to Paris has a pretty good little map – although even here there is some serious inaccuracies: Eugene Delacroix is listed in Div. 48 (he’s actually in 49), Honore Balzac is listed in 47 (he’s in 48) and Gerard de Nerval is noted in 49 (which is correct) but across from Balzac and not in the “other” division 49. (photo left: Gourlot in division 11; you can also see this stone in the Carnavalet museum as well.)

In all fairness to these small maps that particular part of the cemetery is trying at best. Beautiful to wander in mind you, but very confusing to find your way about if you’re looking for someone in particular (and most people are doing just that).

Online there are a couple of excellent resources: one is Wikipedia, which not only lists alphabetically the major figures buried there (by no means complete though) they also provides you with links to biographies of each person as well. Pretty cool.

There is another site which provides a cool interactive mape of the cemetery. It's extremely slick and very user friendly, allowing you to easily find any one of the gravesites listed on the site. Click here.

I had the good fortune to come into the possession of a wonderful little book Permanent Parisians: An Illustrated Guide to the Cemeteries of Paris (1986), by Judi Culbertson and Tom Randall. I first came across these authors when I used their book Permanent Italians. The idea is simple: discover the famous or interesting people buried in a place (such as Paris), locate their graves and write brief biographical sketches to go along with the guide. Maybe not terribly handy when it comes to Jim Morrison or the doors, but Culbertson and Randall also describe some of the more interesting characters (and their monuments) in detail which you would be hard to glean from any other source. The photographs were taken during the fall of the year it would seem, and while a few might be of some help in locating a grave there is really more focus on detail rather than environment. (photo: Pierre Gareau in division 10.)

Given the sheer size of the cemetery the authors suggest four separate tours for Pere Lachaise, and one of my objectives was to tackle them one at a time, but only using them as a sort of general guide to my wanderings. (I'll have more to say later about the details of the tours and be better placed to judge the accuracy of the book.)

Each “tour” presents the reader with a map on which are a series of letters, each letter corresponding to a name in the table using on the facing page, which lists the gravesites to be visited on that tour. This is followed by textual discussion of each gravesite on a division-by-division basis. Pretty straightforward I think. (Although the use of the letter “E” inside a circle threw me at first but I assume it must refer to the starting point for the tour.) One frustrating note though. They occasionally mention someone in their division-by-division discussion who is not listed on their “tour” map, thus requiring the visitor to use both the book and one of the cemetery maps.

In any case, the maps in the book are generally well done, using a series of arrows to direct you from one monument to the next, and with very few errors that I could find. (The most glaring examples are the repeated reference to Avenue St Morys as Avenue St. Marys, and in tour 3 the letter “I” is listed in division 66, although there is no letter “I” noted in the table for that tour nor is division 66 even discussed in the text.) Most importantly, the maps in Permanent Parisians list many of the street names, even some of the smaller “chemin” (path or walkway) names whereas the Editions Vermet does not; Editions Metropolitain also fails to lists names for many of the “chemin” in the area west of the “Grand Rond” and south of Avenue Saint Morys.(photo: no names on these two niches in the columbarium but the message is clear.)

Although printed in 1986 the book is still in print (2006). The book’s design is also handy: it is tall and narrow so it fits neatly into one’s back pocket. As a side note, the authors have also written similar guides to the cemeteries of Italy and London.

A note for serious photographers: because of the foliage and the huge number of tress (more than 6000 reportedly) the lighting in much of the cemetery can be difficult at best, particularly in the summer with many of the divisions being almost completely enclosed by canopy, so be prepared. And I was told by one of the entrance guards that the use of tripods is not permitted in the cemetery -- unless you go to the “conservation” building (the main offices) and register presumably as a professional photographer.

One last thing before you start. There are three WCs, or bathrooms to us Yanks: one as you come in from the Gambetta Metro stop. Make a right as soon you enter the gate and the WCs are about 100 meters on your right. Another WC, but quite rustic is located just to the left as you enter through the main entrance, around the corner and behind the guardhouse. And finally, if you come through the main entrance, walk to the first street on your right, go a short block and on your left you will see the large “Conservation” building (main offices) where you will find bathrooms located at one end of the building, directly across from the entrance to the old Jewish section of the cemetery. The WCs are well signposted. (photo: some things just don't last forever.)

For a large selection of my photos taken during August of 2006 click here.

Next, touring the cemetery.