Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pere-Lachaise in Murray's Handbook to Paris, 1866

Pere la Chaise. On the N.E. of the city. The oldest and largest extramural cemetery in Paris. Now that planted cemeteries are common in England, the visitor will hardly find it worth while to take a drive of near 3 m. to see this cemetery, especially as the height of the trees and the smoke of the Faubourg St. Antoine materially injure the once celebrated view over Paris. Omnibuses run to Pere la Chaise from the Place de la Bastille with correspondence along the Boulevards, and from the Louvre every quarter of an hour. There are guides at the entrance who charge 2 fr. an hour, and it will be the best plan to take one, cautioning him not to employ more than a limited time. A good walker will be able to see all that is interesting in a couple of hours.

The N.E. extremity of the Rue de la Roquette, leading to the cemetery from the Boulevard du Prince Eugene, is filled with makers of sepulchral monuments, dealers in wreaths to decorate the tombs, crosses, etc. The ground now occupied by the cemetery was given to the Jesuits in 1705, and received its name from Pere la Chaise, confessor of Louis XIV, who was then the superior of the order in Paris. On the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1763 it was sold and passed through several hands, until, in 1804, it was purchased by the municipality to be converted into an extra-mural cemetery. Up to this time the dead had been buried in churches or churchyards within the city, and the idea of making a cemetery outside the walls seems to have originated at Francfort, and thence to have been introduced by Napoleon into France, as within the last 25 years into England.

The cemetery has increased in area from about 50 to more than 200 acres. About 50 interments a day take place here; two-thirds of them are in open graves (Fosses Communes), where 40 or 50 coffins are laid side by side and 3 deep in a trench which is then covered over with earth. The charge for this (unless proof of poverty can be adduced) is 20 fr., and it is usual to erect near the spot a small wooden railing and cross, which costs about 15 fr., and a few flowers are usually planted. At the end of 5 years all these railings and crosses are pulled up and the wood given to the hospitals for fuel; the ground is covered with 4 or 5 ft. of earth dug from other graves or from the hill above, and a fresh tier of coffins is deposited.

The next class of graves are the Fosses Temporaires, where for about 50 fr. a separate grave and 10 years' occupation is secured. Here each grave has a little railing, garden, and cross, or chapel. The more solid sepulchral monuments are built on land bought absolutely (concession a perpetuite). The price of a piece' of ground 2 metres (6 ft.) square is 500 fr. There are about 16,000 stone monuments, on which near 5,000,000 pounds have been spent in the last 50 years. The trees have now grown to a great size and make the older part of the cemetery a thick wood. Most of the celebrated Frenchmen of the present century are buried here.

Broad carriage roads lead straight up from the principal entrance; the first turning rt., l'Allee des Acacias, leads to the Jewish cemetery, where Rachel's tomb is the most remarkable object. A little further on we reach the tomb of Abelard and Heloise, which has always attracted much interest. Abelard died in 1142, and was buried 1101 the priory of St. Marcel under the present tomb. Soon afterwards Heloise had his remains removed to the abbey of the Paraclet, of which she was abbess; and on her death, in 1163, she was laid near him. In 1497 their remains were removed into the church of the abbey. In 1792, when the monasteries were dissolved, they were carried in procession by the inhabitants of Nogent-sur-Seine to their parish church. In 1800 their tomb and statues were transferred to the Musee des Monumens Francais, and placed under the canopy of the original tomb of Abelard. In 1817 they were removed to their present place, and the Gothic canopy under which they lie was raised out of the mins of the Abbey of the Paraclet.

Returning to a broad avenue which sweeps round to the l[eft], we come to an open circular space, in the centre of which stands the handsome monument of Casimir Perier (died 1832). The ground rises abruptly behind here, and on the brow some of the handsomest monuments have been placed. The large marble Doric monument to Countess Demidoff, perhaps the most magnificent of all, is immediately above. From the hill higher up the view has been much impeded by the growth of the trees. A path to the right leads to the tombs of B. Constant and Gen. Foy, Manuel the orator, and Beranger the poet (d. 1837). E. of this are monuments to many of Napoleon's marshals-Lefebvre, Massena, Davoust, Mortier, and Suchet. Near the last is tho tomb of Madame Cottin. The grave of Ney (d. 1815) is at an angle between two roads, but without any monument or inscription, in the midst of a pretty flower-garden surrounded by a high enclosure of ivy.

Keeping now towards the N.W., we come to the spot where several of our countrymen are laid, always a melancholy sight in a foreign land. Volney, and Sir Sidney Smith, the defender of Acre, are buried here. Near this is the tomb of Moliere, which was transported from the Musee des Petits Augustins, and adjoining it that of La Fontaine, adorned with subjects taken from his fables. Along the broad road (l'Allee des Marronniers), between these tombs and the English part of the cemetery, are some very fine monuments: those of M. Aguado, a rich banker, of Godoy Prince of Peace, and the Duchess of Duras, are the most remarkable. The lofty pyramid is to the memory of a M. Felix de Beaujour, a rich native of Provence.

Descending from the N. corner of the grounds towards the chapel are the tombs of Casimir Delavigne the poet, of Balzac the novelist, and of David d'Angers the sculptor. In the N.W. angle is the principal burying-ground at this moment (1864) for the lower orders, and beyond, the Mussulman cemetery, enclosed by walls, in which is the tomb of the Queen and Prince of Oude, on each side and behind which is a large space recently added to the grounds, the present place of interment of the lower orders. The chapel of the cemetery of Pere la Chaise is a plain Doric building, from the steps leading to which is a fine view, in which the towers of Vincennes form an imposing object. There are several English monuments to the W. of the wide avenue which leads past the chapel; and in the angle between the avenues on the S. of it are those of many French actors and artists - Talma, Herold, Bellini, Lebrun, Gretry, Boieldieu, etc. Descending from the chapel to the entrance gate, by a broad alley, are the tombs of Arago, the 2 Viscontis, Delambre the celebrated astronomer, and a short way farther S.E. that of Cuvier. The places of the tombs of the most celebrated personages, not mentioned above, will be found on the accompanying plan.

It is the custom in France for the relations and friends to visit the tombs continually, praying by them, and hanging up garlands of immortelles. On All Souls' Day, 2 Nov., the cemetery is crowded.

When the allies advanced on Paris in 1814, the heights of Pere la Chaise were defended for some time against the Russians, who at the third attempt drove back the defenders and finally bivouacked in the cemetery.

 [From A Handbook for Visitors to Paris by John Murray, London, 1866, pp. 211-214]

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