Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Blaise Pascal, Jean Racine and the patron Saint of Paris

OK so these two are interred in St. Etienne du Mont, and not in an outdoor burial ground, the main focus of this blog and my Paris cemeteries website. But hey, they are, after all, two of the great luminaries of French cultural history. Anyway, located just across from the backside of the Pantheon this church is probably often overlooked by many tourists. They walk throuugh the hallowed halls of the Pantheon to pay their respects to the great figures of French history and probably never think to slide around the corner and stop in at the seemingly unremarkable church sitting in the back corner.

But that would be a mistake. Once inside you'll discover this is an amazing piece of artwork in wood, stone and glass.

In fact this very space was quite probably the location of one of the very first Christian churches built in Paris. Originally built in honor of Saints Peter and Paul, by Clovis, king of the Franks, he had the church rededicated to Sainte Genevieve (422-512) who was the patron saint of Paris (she reportedly turned Attila away from the gates of Paris). The first chapel was built around her crypt in the sixth century and subsequently extended and enlarged over the centuries. (That's her sarcophagus below.)

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a mathematician (he wrote a treatise on projective geometry at the age of sixteen), physicist and religious philosopher. He also became one of the great French prose writers and his wit and insight reflected in works such as the Pensees, is still a touchstone in Western literature. (His death mask is below.)

Jean Racine (1639-1699) is one of the great French dramatists and poets, certainly one of the great tragedians of the 17th century, and is read widely today for his elegant and simple style of writing.

A wonderful little detour. and aftewards you can take the five-minute stroll over to the Place Contrescarpe for a coffee or aperitif. How about that?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Chapelle Expiatoire

The Chapelle Expiatoire, or chapel of atonement, which contains the remains of some 3,000 people guillotined during the French Revolution, is closed until the middle of November while repair work is being done on the garden surrounding the vaults.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Montmartre surprise

I was in Montmartre cemetery tracking down several people -- residents of course -- when I came across quite a pleasant surprise.

One of my objectives was to note the information on the two large, perhaps the largest, monuments in the cemetery. Both are side-by-side in division 29 and front onto avenue de Montmorency. The tall obelisk belongs to the Duc du Montmorency-Luxembourg; the other, a much larger and grandiose structure simply notes "Kollitsch" and then below it "Sepulture Marc Lejeune." The grill on the door to the Lejeune mausoleum was a bit high for me to look through so I used my camera to take several photos of the interior. The results were astounding, as you can see below.

It is quite rare these days to find an older masoleum interior in such good shape -- and the colors are still vibrant and quite striking.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

General Andranik and Armenian independence

You may recall news stories within the past year regarding France's hard-line position on the issue of whether Turkey committed genocide in 1916 when various elements of the Turkish government systematically and wantonly exterminated more than a half million Armenians. France says that Turkey committed government-sponsored genocide and wants Turkey to admit it. Turkey says, no it won't admit to something that isn't true. It doesn't deny the deaths of a large porportion of the Armenians living in Turkey during the war but says it was not "genocide."

Anyway, France has a long history of affection for the Armenian people, many of whom fought alongside French troops during the First World War (when Turkey fought on the side of, ahem, the Germans).

Besides the grand monument to those soldiers who fell fighting for France (at the edge of division 88 along the avenue des etrangers mort pur la France) in Pere Lachaise, you can also find one of the most illustrious heroes of Armenian independence, General Andranik (or Antranik, 1865-1927). Andranik led the Aremnian volunteers fighting alongside the Russians against the Central Powers, which included Germany, Austria and their ally Turkey. After the war he went into exile settling in Fresno, California, where he lived until his death. His remains were sent to Paris for burial, the communist authorities refusing to allow his body to be brought back home to Bulgaria where he had been born. In 2000 his remains were at last returned to Armenia.

Although he is no longer buried in division 94 (just around the corner from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, of all people), General Andranik sitting his jumping horse, waving his sword and leading his men forward, still cuts a most striking figure. (see photo above; photos below are details from the statue.)

A fan visits Marcel Marceau's grave

I met David on the path seperating divisions 9 and 10; he was trying to inquire from some workmen repairing a headstone, where he might find Marcel Marceau's grave. They seemed eager to help but were at a loss of trying to (a) understand what he wanted and (b) help him find his way. I was walking by and overheard his pleas for assistance so I quietly butted in and asked if I could help.

He replied in a very British accent that he wanted to find Marceau's grave as he has a few things he wanted to place on it -- he had heard that there weren't many in attendance at the funeral and was concerned that the great man's memory was already being lost. So here he was to make a small contribution to set things right.

I handed him a cemetery guidemap -- I always keep a half dozen or so handy for just such occasions and end up giving most of the out every time I go to the cemetery.

He said "no thanks," he had no idea where he was and would I be so kind as to show him the grave. He was most insistent on his lack of map-reading skills and appeared really so eager to find the grave that I said I'd be happy to show him the way. It was only a few-minute walk over to division 21 and so off we went.

Moments later and we were standing over the mound of flowers that had been left in wake of the funeral last week. (Get it, "wake"?) David then pulled out a sheaf of plastic-covered small posters, each imprinted with an image of Marcel and a little bit about his life. He then placed them around the flowers and I took his photo. He seemed so pleased to be able to do this for someone he felt had made an impact on his life.

I then pointed him toward the way back to the main gate. He thanked me and off he went smiling.

Wish you had been there,


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Fall at Pere Lachaise

This was shot looking over division 70 in Pere Lachaise cemetery, on Tuesday, 2 October. Fall is most certainly here in Paris notwithstanding the sticky, humid and otherwise summer-like weather.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Marcel Marceau is in division 21

For those of you looking for Marcel Marceau's grave it is smack in the middle of division 21, Pere Lachaise cemetery, just across Avenue de Saint-Morys, from the chapel and Adolphe Thiers' huge mausoleum. There is no marker yet but plenty of flowers to guide you.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Marcel Marceau

I recently paid a visit to the final resting place of the famous mime Marcel Marceau, who died in Paris at the age of 84.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A little something for your soul, from Paris

A little something hovering below the Arc de Triomphe and floating above the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Paris. Turn your speakers on and the volume up si vous plait!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Back in Pere Lachaise

Well I'm back in Paris untill the end of October and of course one of the first things I had to do was to go to Pere Lachaise cemetery, particularly I now that live just about 10 minutes away!

Anyway I wanted to pay my respects to several of my favorites: Jacob Robles (7th div.), the aeronaut Madelaine Sophie Blanchard (1778-1819, 13th div.):

To Jane Avril (1868-1943, 19th div.), one of Toulouse-Latrec's most well-known models and one of the great caberet dancers of Paris:

And to Fernand Arbelot (1880-1942, div. 11), whose one desire in death was to forever gaze on the face of his wife:

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A quick and short look at Pere Lachaise

Here's another short video made from footage I shot at Pere Lachaise in 2006-2007. The people who come and visit the cemeteries of Paris are almost, I say almost, as fascinating as the people they come to visit. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Paris is to die for, part 2

Here's another short video of random images I shot in Pere Lachaise cemetery in 2006-2007.

Paris is to die for

Here is a short movie of some random images I shot in Montmartre, Montparnasse and Passy cemeteries in 2006-2007.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Dalida in Montmartre

You can find Egyptian-born entertainer "Dalida" (Yolande Gigliotti) in division 18 of Montmartre cemetery. She committerd suicide in 1987.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Jouet in Montmartre

You can find this in the middle of division 24 of Montmartre cemetery:

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Three more reasons to visit the cemeteries of Paris

OK so you've been to the Musee d'Orsay and seen ther fantastic art of Edouard Manet. Now pay a visit to his grave at Passy cemetery in the shadow of the Eiffel tower:

Hang around cemetery of Montrouge, a part of Paris that Robert Doisneau spent much of his life photographing, and maybe you'll see someone like this:

And for a view of the Paris that many Parisians alone get to see check this spot out in Gentilly cemetery:



Saturday, May 26, 2007

Two reasons to visit Paris cemeteries

Here are two very good reasons to consider spending of your leisure time exploring any one of Paris cemeteries.

Coligny family in division 2 of Passy cemetery:

Jane Henriot in division 15 of Passy cemetery:

Stop, look learn.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Update on the missing busts in Pere Lachaise

The latest word from Marie in Paris is that many of the recovered busts that were stolen last fall from cemeteries around France, have started to return to their proper places. Thomas, Bizet, Baragnon, Adam, Belloc, Pouget, Desclée, Vignon, Barye, Boy, Delaplanche and Lemaître will soon be back keeping watch over their respective graves soon. It’s high time too.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Picpus cemetery

I came across the following bit of Paris cemetery lore in the Bangor (Maine) public library of all places. I had been looking for a particular work by Arthur Koestler in the biography section and my eye gravitated to an upper shelf just for a moment and lo and behold there was this old tattered book Madame de Lafayette and Her Family, by one M. MacDermot Crawford. Intrigued for reasons I cannot explain, I pulled it off the shelf, checked the index for the word Picpus and was rewarded with the following tale of sorrow, anguish and the nobility of human nature. (photo: markers for the two mass graves at Picpus cemetery.)

The priest wrote that after a long and ceaseless search, in which he had met with unnumbered obstacles, he had at last succeeded in finding the burial place of the thirteen hundred victims who had fallen by the guillotine in the last six weeks of the Reign of Terror near the Barrière du Trone. (Barrière du ‘Trone reversé’, as the wits named it after the days of a fallen monarchy.) This was almost at the same moment as [Madame Lafayette] hear from Mme. De Montagu on the same subject. One of the first cares, “a pious duty of a devoted daughter,” of Mme de Montagu, after her return to France, was to try and learn where her mother, Mme d’Ayen, had been buried. No one was able to tell her. All the émigrés were in the same ignorance concerning the fate of those near and dear, who had met their death upon the scaffold. All Paris knew where the victims had fallen, but none where they had found eternal rest; the journals of the time made no comment, it was almost a state secret. On her return from Auvergne where she had been to attend to some family business, she heard of a poor girl, a lace maker by trade, Mlle. Paris, living in the faubourg, who might be able to furnish a clue. On this slight thread, Mme de Montague commenced the laborious search, and after heartrending disappointments, weary mounting of endless tortuous stairs, knocking at numberless doors, she arrived at the fourth-floor garret of Mlle Paris, who, on seeing her, thought she was a new customer whom heaven had sent. The poor workwoman melted into tears when Mme de Montagu had explained the object f her visit, and told her the following story:

“My father,” she said, “was an infirm old man who had served the family of Brissac for thirty years; my brother, a little younger than myself, an employé in the staff office of the National Guard. He was very steady and economical, and supported us all by his work, after the misfortune of the house of Brissac had deprived my father of his pension. As for myself, I had no occupation; none wore lace in the time of the Terror. One day my brother did not come home at the usual time. I went out to see what happened, and when I returned, found the house deserted. My father, who could scarcely walk, had been dragged to prison in my absence, my brother also, during the morning. I have3 never been sure of what they were accused. They would neither shut me up with them, nor even allow me to embrace them. I never saw them again until they were in the charette, being taken to the guillotine. Some one who saw and recognized me in the crowd tried in pity to lead me away, and on my refusal, went away crying. I saw my father and brother guillotined, and if I was not killed by the shock, it is because God upheld me. I did not fall, but stood riveted to the spot, mechanically stammering some prayers without seeing or hearing what was going on. When I cam to myself, the Place du Trone was almost deserted, the crowd having dispersed in all directions. The blood-stained carts on which they had loaded the bodies of the poor victims took the road to the country, surrounded by several gendarmes. I did not know where they were going, but followed them, though I could hardly walk. They stopped at Picpus. It was nearly night, but I recognized perfectly the old house of the Augustines, and the place where they buried all in a mass, the unfortunates who had been guillotined. From that time, I have often gone there to pray; winter and summer, it is my walk on Sundays.”

It had always been a great grief and sorrow to the pious daughters that they should not have even the poor consolation of praying beside the graves of those dearly loved, who had been, as described by Mlle. Paris, buried in one undistinguishable mass, covered with quicklime, in the brutal fashion inaugurated at the burial of the unfortunate sovereigns Louis and Marie Antoinette. She finally found that her mother and sister slept in the little cemetery of the Picpus, belonging to the convent of the same name. The origin of this cemetery of Picpus is of great antiquity and curious interest. Far back in the fifteenth century the people of a part of France, in particular, of Paris, were visited by an irritating affliction. Its exact cause not being known to the unskilled chirurgeons of the day, the epidemic ran on, unchecked. It was characterized by numerous, not over-large, swellings on all arts of the body, in appearance having the effect of monster flea-bites, with the accompanying irritation and itching of the skin. Finally, a monk, whose name has been lost, affected so many cures that he established a little monastery, at a village, or rather, straggling collection of houses, near Paris, on the road to Vincennes, where, with a few brethren of his order, he continued to cure those who flocked to him. These monks became known as the Pique Puces (flea-bites), from their treatment of those irritating swellings, so similar to the bites of that bloodthirsty insect, which they cured in a simple manner, by opening the sores, expressing the virus, bathing the wounds, and allowing Dame Nature to pursue her healing way unhindered. The order became a flourishing one, always being known as the Pique Puces, and giving its name to the village, now swallowed by ever-growing Paris.

The vicissitudes of this order were many, and the monastery finally became the property of the Canonesses of Saint Augustine, to whom it belonged at the outbreak of the Revolution. After the law abolishing all religious orders, the convent with its quaint cemetery, its luxurious gardens and fruit trees, was abandoned, serving as a sleeping place for those waifs who knew not form day to day what the next hour might bring forth. Its gnarled trees, overhanging the grim walls, tempted young Jean and Pierre to put into effect the law which ruled France at the moment: that of making one’s neighbor’s worldly goods one’s own. Unchecked by rebuke, they became bolder, and not even the ghostly terrors of the deserted graveyard kept the ragged little wretches from satisfying their appetites on the fruits which had been the bonne bouches of the absent nuns.

After the Terror had slain its thousand, and the spectacle of executions lost the charming flavour of novelty which at first made it so popular, the inhabitants of the rue Saint Honoré and the quartier through which the laden tumbrels daily passed on the way to the Place de la Révolution, petitioned the Committee to have the guillotine removed to another part of the city. After the entry, “Prairal 25,” M. Sanson, the more than famous “Monsieur de Paris,” says:

"At last the brief of the inhabitants of the rue Saint Honoré has been granted. The day before yesterday, as I was going to bed, I was called to the Palais de Justice, where Royer, the substitute, ordered me to clear the Place de la Révolution of the scaffold, and take it to the Place de la Bastille. The carpenters worked all night. The public of this quartier had no liking for executions, for as soon as we appeared in the rue St. Antoine, with three carts full, we were hissed, and otherwise ill received. The inhabitants of the quartier St. Antoine are not so timid as those of the Place de la Révolution, and they made no secret of their disgust; when the execution took place almost everybody had gone away. The Committee have determined not to renew the experiment, and under the pretence that the Place de la Bastille is too good for aristocratic blood, they have directed the scaffold to be transferred to the Place du Trone. So we passed another sleepless night. We are now to send the corpses to the St. Marguerite cemetery.” This new arrangement did not prove satisfactory – the place of putting the unfortunate dead in the cemetery of St. Marguerite, for again less than a fortnight after, Sanson alludes to the matter.

“Messidor 1: The dead are beginning to frighten the living. The inhabitants of the Montreuil section, where we now send the dead bodies, have complained. They argue that the stench is horrible, and that unless the small cemetery of St. Marguerite isw closed, serious consequences cannot but ensue. After much hesitation, the Committee has selected a new place for the burial of the executed. This is the garden of the old convent of Picpus. The spot seems to be ill chosen; the soil is composed of pure clay, and it cannot absorb what is deposited in it.” So runs the history of the cemetery of Picpus, where so many noble dead sleep in silent harmony with those who were of the byways.

The enclosure, or field, was the property of the Princess of Hohenzollern, whose brother, the Prince of Salm-Kyrbourg, beheaded in the Terror, was buried there. His property, among which was the hotel (now rebuilt) belonging to the Legion d’Honneur, on the Quai d’Orsay, was confiscated, according to the practice of the day, being drawn in the National Lottery by a coiffeur. The princess refused the request of Mmes. De Lafayette and de Montagu, to “consecrate the ground to the common veneration of the many families whose members lay sleeping there.” “She did not wish to relinquish her rights.” There was, however, a chapel, and some fields adjoining, and these the sisters, with the many others interested, bought. It was leased to an order of Bernardine nuns, who had dedicated themselves to the perpetual adoration of the Holy Sacrament, their order, founded in 1425, being the second only to the Carmelites in its dreadful severity and rigorous austerities. So, at last, the dead slept in consecrated ground. Mme de Lafayette passed many hours in the little chapel, where the names of the victims, inscribed on the books of the Conciergerie, weeping, and praying for the souls of those who had gone without hesitation to eternity. This interesting spot, with its harrowing memories, is situated near the old mur d’octroi, between the Barrière du Trone and the Barrière Saint Mandé – now absorbed in the busy faubourg of St. Antoine, and has – or had -- a boarding school attached to it, where the nuns daily teach. It is still known as the cemetery of Picpus. At her request, Mme de Lafayette was buried there – the spot for her grave chosen by Mme de Montagu – though it is usually to the tomb of her gallant husband that the steps of the pilgrim and sightseer wend their way.

Excerpted from Madame de Lafayette and Her Family, by M. MacDermot Crawford, New York: James Pott & Co., 1907, pp. 309-314

Monday, May 14, 2007

Update on Carries in Division 12

Marie B. sent me this image of the sculptor Carries in division 12. For years he has been seen wanting to hold something and now he does. The conservation has apparently returned the little 17th century statue back to where it originally belonged. Cool, eh?

Thanks Marie!

Want to be buried in Paris?

I received an inquiry recently from someone whose mother had expressed a wish to someday be buried in Paris:

My Mother is elderly and we talked about her wishes for funeral arrangements. As we have visited Paris several times over the years and I know she has a fondness for the city I suggested it would be nice if her remains (ashes) could be interned at a cemetery in Paris I don't know if this is possible as she has never been an inhabitant of France.Do you know if this would be possible? and if so do you know who we would need to contact to make any future arrangements.

An intriguing question indeed. I asked my friend Marie, one of the founders of the Friends of Pere-Lachaise,  if such a thing was possible.  This was her reply:

Unfortunately, the rules to be buried in a Paris cemetery are rather strict: people may be buried in one of these cemeteries if (and only if) they die in the French capital city or if they lived there. Being buried in Pere-Lachaise is even more difficult nowadays as there is a waiting list: very few plots are available.However, I suppose ashes could be scattered in PL's Garden of Remembrance. You should write to the following address:

8, boulevard de Ménilmontant
75020 Paris

(photo above: Lewin family in division 93, directly across from Oscar Wilde's well-visited gravesite in division 89. Curiously, most people don't even notice this dramatic bit of humanity.)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Bouvier is safe

Marie informs me that Bouvier is in fact in the hands of the conservation at Pere Lachaise.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Another missing bust in Pere Lachaise

I've just learned from my friend Marie B. that the bronze bust of Alexis Bouvier, sculpted by Bouret, is missing from it's pedestal in division 47 in Pere Lachaise.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Temporary hiatus

Hi everyone,

We're on the road in the middle western United States and will soon be settled in Maine for the summer. I'll have plenty of time to start uploading the hundreds of photos and stories from the Paris cemeteries, so stay tuned!



Sunday, March 18, 2007

Last walk through Pere Lachaise and last goodbyes

The bust of Rene Piavit not missing after all. Apparently the conservation at Pere Lachaise has instituted a policy of removing any unstable bust for safekeeping until they can be returned to the gravesite and affixed to the pedestal. A pretty good policy we'd say.

And speaking of missing busts the police have reportedly recovered most of the busts stolen from a number of Parisian cemeteries over the past several months. That's the good news; the bad news is that not all the recovered busts can be identified! It's always something!

I met up with Marie yesterday (Saturday) afternoon for a last stroll through the cemetery and to track down a couple of gravesites that have since eluded me: Preault in 49, Castiglione in 85 and Fresnel in 14. Marie found Preault for me and together we found Castiglione but Fresnel still remains that one elusive grave. . .

While waiting for Marie I caught sight of five young women just outside the cemetery entrance, four with devil horns on and one dressed like an angel with wings and halo; I have no idea what was going on here but they seemed very lively, happy and just out being goofy and enjoying life.

Not a bad way to go through life. And what better place than outside a cemetery to promote such a worldview, eh?

As Marie and I chatted and strolled through the cemetery I said let's swing through divisions 13 and 19 so that I could pay my respects to two of my favorite women: ballonist Sophie Blanchard (div. 13) and Moulin Rouge dancer Jane Avril (div. 19). (Photo top of Lautrec's poster of Jane.)

More than a century before there were barnstormers flying their biplane aircraft over county fairs in the United States, showing off their daredevil acrobatic skills, there were people in France doing pretty much the same thing but with balloons. In 1785 Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American Dr. John Jeffries were the first to cross the English in a ballown (they almost didn't make it). After Jean-Pierre died in a ballloning accident in 1809 his widow Sophie carried on the family tradition, becoming one of the first women aeronauts. During one show in 1819 her balloon caught fire from the fireworks and although sghe landed successfully on a nearby house, she was blown off the roof by a gust of wind and killed. Sophie was buried in division 13 of Pere Lachaise. (Photos left and below)

Jane Avril was one of the best known and in her day one of the most famous dancers at the Moulin Rouge in Montmartre as well as a number of other caberet shows. Jane replaced the incomparable Louse Weber (La Goulue) at the Moulin Rouge and became a sensation. She died in 1943 in a seniors' home in near poverty in 1943, largely unforgotten.

After we left the cemetery Marie and I met up with Philippe at a nearby cafe for coffee and later they took me next door to the 20th Arrondissement's Maire (city hall) across the street where the once-every-two-years' festival of associations was underway. Every organization, society and association in the arrondissement was out in force trying to persuade people to take a peek at what they had to offer the public and to consider joining. Naturally the Friends of Pere Lachaise had a booth as well.

It was a wonderful afternoon and a grand way to spend my last tour in Pere Lachaise. I will miss Marie, Philippe and of course the quiet streets of Pere Lachaise.

Wish I was there,


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gentilly cemetery

Marion from New York writes and asks if anyone has information on the burial location for her great-grandfather Michel Klos (or Klaus) and his family who lived just across the street from St. Saturnin church on rue Frileuse (then rue Charles Frerot) in the 19th century and are most likely buried in Gentilly cemetery.

If you have any information drop me a line and I'll pass it along --



Missing again in Pere Lachaise div. 89

Well it's back to the same old story: another bust has turned up missing. This time it's Rene Piavit in division 89, close to the massive sculpture over Oscar Wilde's burial place:

Monday, March 05, 2007

Thieves caught!

Well I just heard from Marie this morning and she received an email from Pere Lachaise saying that the thieves had been caught. The "theft ring" was a mother, son and daughter, who were apparently trying to sell the stolen busts and medallions at some of the, shall we say less-inquisitive antique dealers in Paris. marie said that details so far are sketchy but that thery recovered quite a few busts including Bizet.

The good news that the string of thefts of wonderful works of art has been brought to a halt, at least for the time being (we hope).

The question now is what will the city do about protecting all the busts in the cemetery in the future? Certainly one alternative would be to increase foot patrols of police and the cemetery wardens. Another, more effective but certainly more costly option would be to take one of the existing buildings in division 83 for example, presently used for administrative purposes, and turn it into an exhibition hall.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Another missing bust in Pere Lachaise

Back in early January Marie informed me that the bust of French sculptor Eugene Delaplanche (1836-1891) was missing from division 96, and sure enough I noticed it myself this Saturday (3 March):


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Almost spring in Pere Lachaise

It's said that more than a million and a half people visit Pere Lachaise each year. If that's true they must have all been in the cemetery yesterday because it was packed with tourists of every shape, size, color, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and nationality.

What a beautiful day it was in Paris, very much like spring with temps reaching the low 60s. The day began slightly cool but by midday had warmed up and when the sun came out it was actually quite warm, almost uncomfortably so in a lightweight jacket.

And so what better day to be out strolling in one of the world's most fantastic sculpture gardens.

One of my favorites (out of a couple a hundred I suppose) can be found in division 94, just a couple of meters from the final resting place of Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas. You really can't miss General Andranik Ozanian, one of the heroes of Armenian liberation, rearing hup on hir horse ready to charge into battle. (He also has another statue in a square named after him in Meudon, a suburb southwest of Paris.) General Andranik fought against the Ottoman Turks in Armenia and Bulgaria and also attempted to prevent the Turks from invading eastern Aremnia in 1918-1919. As know of course he was not successful and in 1919 he disbanded his army and along with a band of loyal soldiers left Armenia to go into exile rather than live under Turkish rule. He eventually settled in Fresno, California where he died in 1927. His body was brought to Paris and interred in Pere Lachaise, but was returned to Armenia in 2000, so today the statue is simply a memorial to one of Armenia's freedom fighters. (photo above and below: General Andranik's statue in division 94.)

I'm nearly finished videotaping in Pere Lachaise and have now started to turn my attention more and more to taping the people who come here.

But of course I'm not the first to tape the spectators (as opposed to the spectacle). In fact, just last year a documentary was released in Europe and the US interviewing some of the people who come to visit Pere Lachaise. The film is called Forever, put together by Heddy Honigman, is in French and English, and was released by Cobos Films, a Dutch production company. It received very good reviews and sounds fascinating -- now it's just a matter of finding a copy.



Friday, February 16, 2007

It was a beautiful day the day after Valentine's Day (lots of days there, eh?) and what better thing to do than go out to Pere Lachaise and spend a little time strolling and videotaping and visiting Edith Piaf:

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Passy, Vaugirard and Grenelle complete

I've completed my return passes through these threee somewhat off-the-beaten path gardens of stone: Passy, Vaugirard and Grenelle cemeteries.

There is very little to recommend a stop at Grenelle in the 15th arrondissement, except for the Henri Schmid sculpture. This is, I think, one of the sweetest pieces of artwork to be found out-of-doors in Paris; it takes on even great power and poignancy in such a small cemetery. (174 rue St. Charles. Metro: Lourmel.)

Also off the beaten path is Vaugirard where you can find the very moving "Soldiers'" lot, a field of simple crosses against the backdrop of hi-rise apartment buildings. While most tourists go to Les Invalides to see Napoleon's tomb or those of the great and near-great martial heroes of France, it is at Vaugirard that you will find the burials of quite a few of the soldiers who died at Les Invalides hospital, many from wounds during the First World War. Also worth a stop is the compelling sculpture highlighting the grave of Antony Cottes, a remarkable bit of art which reminiscent of the Pieta, but with a martial twist. (320 rue Lecourbe. Metro: Lourmel or Convention.)

I also wanted to go back to Passy, to see the view of the Eiffel tower once more, to pay my respects to Pearl White again, and look for the now missing Cierplikowski sculpture, a piece of very dramatic art that was well-documented in past years but has apparently been removed, along with the grave as well. (2 rue Commandant-Schloessing. Metro: Trocadero.)

Good news in the continuing Pere Lachaise "missing bust" saga: both Valentin and Lucipia are in the hands of the conservation, apparently for safekeeping. Of course, I have no idea what "safekeeping" means, but presumably taken away from public display; for how long is anyone's guess.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

More missing busts?

Marie informed me last night that she thinks another four are missing:

BOUYER Louis-Charles (D35), bronze bust by A. Boucher
GRELOT Félix (D76), bronze bust
SAUTEREAU Jean (D68), bronze bust by Serres
WION-PIGALLE Emélie-Narcisse (D68), bronze bust by Anfrie

I can't confirm this, however, and in fact I have no photos of any of these, which leads me to believe they were taken sometime before the fall of 2006. (And Marie even said she thought Sautereau had been missing for some time.) But I'm not certain since I didn't even begin my second pass through Pere Lachaise until mid-October and it wasn't until later in the year that I started my videotaping.

But it was a fine day to be in the cemetery Saturday.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Lucipia missing in division 89

I just returned this afternoon from a gorgeous day in Pere Lachaise -- I have finished videotaping through division 92 thank you very much.

Anyway, bad news again: Louis Lucipia's bust is missing in division 89.



Theft confirmed in Pere Lachaise

Well it appears that Valentin's bust in division 2 of Pere-Lachaise was indeed stolen. Au revoir!

Rain today and predicted for tomorrow as well so it doesn't appear right now (6;44 a.m.) that I'll be going out to Pere-Lachaise for any videotaping. Of course this being Paris and since we are on the cusp of global warming (thanks Detroit!) you just never know what to expect from the weather an hour from now.


Friday, February 09, 2007

I've finished Montmartre

Well I finished my second pass through Montmartre cemetery yesterday.

My goal ever since we arrived in Paris last August was to make a thorough sweep through each of the cemeteries in Paris to photodocument their funerary sculpture, and then pass through a second time later in the year when the foliage all came off the trees.

And it was a gorgeous day for taking photos -- at least in Montmartre before the rain hit later in the afetrnoon -- so off I went.

And along the way I stumbled across the little gem (that's it up there). It's a simple, sweet stone marking the final resting place of one Louise Weber, known locally as "La Goulué", who was the creator of the French Can Can!

Now all I have remaining is to videotape the last seven divisions at Pere-Lachaise. I'm also hoping to tape Marie and Philippe talking about Paris cemeteries once or twice more before we leave the end of March. They are unbelievable repositories of information and the stories they can tell. . . .

Speaking of Marie she was out at Pere-Lachaise yesterday and discovered that the bust of Valentin in division 2 is missing. We have yet to ascertain whether it is theft or another one removed by the conservation for safekeeping.