Monday, December 31, 2012

Porte Principale Pere Lachaise

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Paul Baudry (1828-1886) division 4 Pere-Lachaise

Painter Paul Baudry; sculpture by Paul Dubois (in division 9):

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ernest Caillat division 2 Pere-Lachaise

Monument designed by the French art nouveau architect Hector Guimard (1867-1942), who designed many of entrances to the Paris Metro. (Visit Felix Caillat's monument in division 56.)


Monday, December 24, 2012

Visconti in division 4 Pere-Lachaise

Louis Joachim Visconti and his father Ennius QuirinusVisconti, division 4. Reclining effigy by Barrias (Passy Cemetery) and bust in the rear by d'Angers (division 39 Pere-Lachaise).

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Alphonsine Plessis in Montmartre

One incredible young woman, Marie Rose Plessis, known as Alphonsine,  died of tuberculosis in 1847 at the age of 23. And still people leave flowers and candles by her grave. (The postcard reprinted here mistakenly listed her as buried in Pere-Lachaise.)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Pere-Lachaise -- in the beginning

Alexandre-Theodore Brongniart's map of Pere-Lachaise from 1813

and the 1813 map overlaying the 1884 Bezodis map of Pere-Lachaise, which is much as it looks today

Friday, December 21, 2012

Four guides to Paris Cemeteries

For the casual traveler to Paris one of the standard travel guides will usually suffice for getting around Pere-Lachaise or any of the other popular cemeteries in the city. and most usually offer a simple map with an itinerary -- and of course you can always pick up one of the official cemetery maps or, in the case of Pere-Lachaise, purchase one of the more detailed maps available near one of the main entrances.

But if you're looking for something different, something a bit more enlightening, consider one of these dedicated cemetery guides:

Guide des Cimetieres Parisiens by Jacques Barozzi (Editions Hervas 1990); French. somewhat dated with an infrequent inaccuracy, still this is a reasonably good overview of the major cemeteries in Paris. Arranged by cemetery and then division, with listings and information on notable burials; photos and maps for each cemetery discussed. Index of names

Unexplored Paris by Rodolphe Troulleux and Jacques Lebar, revised edition (Parisgramme 2009); English. OK so this isn't strictly a cemetery guide per se, but what a wonderful book. Aside from serving as a handy guide to those sights of Paris often missed by the harried tourist, this little book, long available only in French, points to some of the more interesting funeral things to see in the city. Index oddly arranged by alphabet but then not alphabetical.  Hmmmm.

Le Cimetiere Montparnasse by Marie-Laure Pierard (De Boree 2009); French. Frankly I don't care much for the layout of this book. Although ostensibly arranged by division, in fact for some odd reason the author jumps all around in her discussion of the major burials in each division. Poor reprint of the official cemetery map, which is not terribly useful. Index lists only the division number and not the page; a bit awkward I thought. Having said all that, to the best of my knowledge this is the only recent guide to Montparnasse, a cemetery worth a long stroll if not a lengthy visit in its own right.

Guide des Curiosites Funeraires a Paris by Anne-Marie Minvielle (Parisgramme 2008); French. Subititled Cimetieres, Eglises et Lieux de Memoire, this is another handy little volume to stuff in your bag. Arranged by arrondissement you can either plunge right in or check out the handy little table of contents at the front of the book for a more detailed itinerary. Very nice photographs (Minvielle is a professional photographer as well as a journalist) and the maps are well-executed. With appendices (annexes) that include a glossary of terms, a bibliography and glory be! an index of tombs listed in the book. How cool is that?!

While this is not mean to be an exhaustive list, it should help the serious cemetery tourist to discover some of the more unusual treasures awaiting them in the cemeteries of Paris.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

General Jacques Gobert in division 37 Pere-Lachaise

Killed at the Battle of Bailen in Spain on 19 July 1808. Statue by David d'Angers (buried nearby in division 39).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Two early views of Pere-Lachaise by Henri Courvoisier-Voisin

view from division 44, looking west toward the center of Paris

view from roughly boulevard Meniltonant looking up rue de Repos toward the Maison Mont-Louis, now the chapel

Monday, December 17, 2012

Square Pere-Lachaise sculpture

This dramatic and moving sculpture by Paul Moreau-Vauthier (buried in division 14), depicts the final moments of those 147 communards lined up against the mur des federes in division 76 and summarily executed, and whose bodies were dumped into a mass grave directly in front of the wall. One legend has it that the pieces of stone used here came from the original wall, although there does not appear to be any evidence to support such a  claim -- still, it makes for a great story.

This is located outside of the cemetery and is part of Square Samuel de Champlain (formerly called Square Pere-Lachaise) and runs along the northern wall of Pere-Lachaise parallel with Avenue Gambetta.

When you exit the Pere-Lachaise metro cross the street like you're heading to the cemetery but bear to the left onto the Avenue Gambetta.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Admiral Bruat in division 27 Pere-Lachaise

Statue of Admiral Joseph Bruat (1796-1855) by Hippolyte Maindron (buried in division 1 Montparnasse Grande).

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Raymond De Seze division 53

So, I've started collecting vintage postcards of Pere Lachaise cemetery. I'm up to more than 65 and still counting. . . or rather still adding. 

The singular advantage of these cards is that since most are more than a century old, they can give us a good idea of what the particular grave site looked like when it was much newer. And hey, they're tres cool!

Anyway, here's Raymond De Seze, one of the lawyers who defended Louis XVI -- not something one would want on their resume given the result but he had moxie that's for sure.

Pere Lachaise in less than five minutes

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Harrison W. Bennett - division 11 Passy Cemetery

It seemed like such a small thing, so trivial and unimportant, and yet that's not how I see what happened to me recently. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before, at least not that I can recall and I wonder if such "connections" don't in fact occur more frequently, that we don't really see the small details that swirl and engulf our lives.

Here's the tale.

I've been spelunking around cemeteries in the United States and Europe for some years now. It started with a casually obsessive need to learn more about the lives of a particular group of civil war veterans in western Michigan and over the years the obsession grew, evolving, and I eventually found myself documenting some of the most exquisite funerary sculpture in Florence, Italy and then Paris, France -- in cemeteries ranging from the quiet and neglected rural burial grounds of the Midwest to the gardens of stone in France and Italy.

So, at a little before noon on February 26, 2012, I found myself in Hope Cemetery in Worcester, Massachusetts, wandering around section 4 looking for one Edwin W. Allen, formerly of Company D, 3rd Michigan Infantry. Now it so happens I know a fair amount about this man, and what's important for this story is that I knew he died on May 27, 1924, at the National Military Home in Togus, Maine, just outside of Augusta. I also had pretty good reason to believe his body was returned to the "family" home in Goffstown, New Hampshire where it was interred in Westlawn Cemetery. I just hadn't been able to confirm this last detail. However, it recently came to my attention that the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War graves registration project had listed him buried in Hope Cemetery in Worcester, an easy drive from Providence.

So here I was braving the cold wind but appreciative of the strong sun as I searched high and low for Edwin. It was while I was searching section 4, in one of the older parts of the cemetery that I came across a headstone that immediately caught my attention, Harrison W. Bennett.

Having spent several months tromping around Paris Cemeteries snapping off thousands of photos I was naturally intrigued by the little note on Harrison's stone, but after shooting a handful of images I moved on to the task at hand. I should say that after about 20 minutes or so in section 4 I reviewed my information on where Edwin was buried and concluded that I had misread the location -- I really wanted section 23 and so off I went.

So I found an Edwin W. Allen indeed, in section 23 but as it turned out it was NOT the man I was seeking.

But it was a lovely day to be in a cemetery and as I pointed the gray ghost toward Rhode Island I felt the trip was certainly worthwhile. And so it was.

Once I got home I put the camera aside and it wasn't until the next day when I uploaded the images to my desktop and starting my reviewing and tagging process (I had taken a number of sculptures in Hope Cemetery that day as well) that something very curious indeed began to dawn on my feeble mind. Re-reading the Bennett headstone now on my monitor I was struck at once -- at last! -- by the singular realization that I knew this name! I quickly opened up my image archive drive and the closer I got to my folders of images from Paris cemeteries the more I realized I knew who this person was, or rather where he was buried in Paris.

Sure enough as I navigated to my collection of images I focused on Passy Cemetery in the 16th arrondissement, and there was Harrison W. Bennett, buried along with Prince and Princess David Tzouloukidze and Charles and Harriette Mattan. I had snapped the photos and moved on.

I'm not sure why I took the photo in the first place -- none of the names were familiar to me nor were any of them obviously famous like Manet or Debussy or Pearl White, also buried in Passy Cemetery. I hadn't come across any of these names in my Paris cemetery guides. There was no intriguing sculpture or unique stone marking the grave. But the collection of individuals buried together seemed somehow inriguing, and, I suppose the beautiful stone architecture and flowers at the grave caught my eye. Maybe I took the photo because I knew I was going to be in Hope Cemetery someday. Who knows?

Whatever brought me to that same man in those two very different places, thousands of miles apart yet inextricably connected somehow and someway, whatever led me to those places allowed me to experience something truly amazing; a connection that is, to me anyway, utterly incomprehensible but utterly fascinating.

Whether Harrison W. Bennett is the same Harrison W. Bennett who was a well-known opera singer in the late 19th century, I don't know, but I like to think so.

And the other names on the tombstone? Well,  curiously enough the princess, that is Emma Dunbar was, as I understand it, Harrison's wife; she remarried after his death. "Harriette" was Emma's daughter.

So many stories untold tightly packed into those stones.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pere Lachaise - Porte Oiseaux entrance

This entrance on the northern side of the cemetery, which was closed long ago, opened onto the Square du Pere-Lachaise, now called Square du Champlain (after you-know-who).

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sophie Blanchard's balloon

Madeline-Sophie Blanchard, Madame Blanchard, was not the first woman aviator but she was the first woman to pilot her own balloon. When her husband, Jean-Pierre Blanchard, one of the earliest balloonists, died in 1809, she opted to make a career of ballooning and in fact became a regular barnstormer at fairs and special events around northern France.

She was reportedly most famous for her self-designed basket shaped like a bathtub, as seen inhere in an ascent she made from the Champ de Mars on June 24, 1810:

It was during a performance on July 19, 1819, in the Tivoli Gardens, where the Saint-Lazare train station is now located, that her balloon caught fire and she fell out of the basket onto a nearby roof and broke her neck.

She's buried -- by herself apparently -- in division 13, Pere Lachaise Cemetery. And yes, she's one of my favorites. (Jane Avril in division 19 is another, if you must know.)

Monday, January 09, 2012

Montmartre division 23

Armand Toussaint

La Fortune

Henri Brisson

Gustave Ricard


Marcelle Charron



Monday, January 02, 2012

Montmartre division 22

Joseph Samson

Vatislav Nijinsky


Laure Junot-Abrantes

Alfred Demodeneq





Jacques Toussaint