Saturday, September 02, 2006


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.)

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