Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pere Lachaise

We went to Paris' most celebrated cemetery, Pere Lachaise, the other day, just before Halloween.  The weather was perfect for a wander through such a beautiful and historic cemetery.  I think that the cemetery of Laeken (in Brussels) actually has more sculpture and is probably more beautiful, but there is something very peaceful about Pere Lachaise, even if it is fairly bustling with locals and tourists alike.  The other things that struck me about Pere Lachaise are the changes in elevation and, frankly, the overcrowding.  It's pretty cool to see those old graves right on top of each other, jammed together and at odd angles... and then to look up and see rows of graves rising ahead of you.  I tried to capture it in a couple of the photos below, but I'm not sure they'll do the trick.

Oh, and if you make it to the end of the photos, there are some celebrity headstones... and some crotch-rubbing--I swear!

OK, now on to the famous people.  Pere Lachaise's most popular resident by far is Jim Morrison.  We didn't even really have to look for his grave;  we just followed the crowd.  And there was a crowd.  They were all gathered around, photographing, leaving bottles of beer and cigarettes.  We wondered why they didn't just leave needles and pills there instead?  It would be more authentic that way.

But really, all of the fanfare around Morrison's grave is a bummer for those other graves situated nearby.  Talk about being trampled on!  And we also saw that people had scratched "JIM ---->" on some of the graves to point the way to the lizard king.  Totally disrespectful.

But there are plenty of other famous people besides Mr. Morrison in Pere Lachaise.

Sarah Bernhardt, for example.

And Oscar Wilde... though his tomb was under renovation, so it was under wraps.  There were still flowers and notes left.

Oh, and here's Edith Piaf!  In the family tomb!

Paul Eluard's on some uneven ground.

And here's Colette.

But really, this guy's got the best story.  He was a young journalist who went by the name of "Victor Noir", and who ended up being shot dead by the great nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte under suspicious circumstances.  There was a great public outrage at his unfortunate death, but it's become his gravesite that is now famous.

Here, read about it:

A life-sized bronze statue was sculpted by Jules Dalou to mark his grave, portrayed in a realistic style as though he had just fallen on the street, dropping his hat which is depicted beside him. The sculpture has a very noticeable protuberance in Noir's trousers. This has made it one of the most popular memorials for women to visit in the famous cemetery. Myth says that placing a flower in the upturned top hat after kissing the statue on the lips and rubbing its genital area will enhancefertility, bring a blissful sex life, or, in some versions, a husband within the year. As a result of the legend, those particular components of the oxidized bronze statue are rather well-worn.

Check out that rubbing, would you?  Looks like someone's getting some action at Pere Lachaise.