The story of the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris

The Père-Lachaise cemetery is Paris biggest cemetery and one of the most visited graveyards in the world. Not matter if it’s for its history, its famous people or its legends, the place is a must you should visit during your stay in Paris.

If today the Père-Lachaise cemetery is known across the whole world, it wasn’t the very recognized place we know today and where many Parisians would like to be buried. To be honest, the start was rather slow and hesitant.

L’Histoire du cimetière du Père Lachaise à ParisL’Histoire du cimetière du Père Lachaise à ParisL’Histoire du cimetière du Père Lachaise à ParisL’Histoire du cimetière du Père Lachaise à Paris

December 1, 1780 marks the closing of the Cimetière des Innocents – currently known as Les Halles. It follows the application of a law dating from 1765 forbidding cemeteries inside cities for deplorable sanitary conditions. The bodies of the Cimetière des Innocents have been transferred to the Paris Catacombs. The problem is that after closing the Cimetière des Innocents, the capital lacked burial places. And this is how several cemeteries have been created in the early 19th century: the Montparnasse cemetery, the Montmartre cemetery, the Passy cemetery and finally the Père-Lachaise cemetery. The latter has been designed by architect Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart (yes, like in Palais Brongniart) who thought up the place like an English garden. Back in the days, each cemetery was found outside the city.

L’Histoire du cimetière du Père Lachaise à ParisL’Histoire du cimetière du Père Lachaise à ParisL’Histoire du cimetière du Père Lachaise à ParisL’Histoire du cimetière du Père Lachaise à Paris

On June 18, 1804, the Père-Lachaise cemetery welcomes the first inhabitant, a little girl who was 5 when she died: Adelaïde Paillard. She’s later joined by Reine Févez. Yet, most Parisian on the right bank, for whom the cemetery was reserved, refused to be buried outside the capital, what is more in a zone considered as a poor and working-class area. Proof of it, here are some figures: in the course of its first year, the cemetery featured 13 graves, then 44 in 1805. Two years later, there are five more graves. We’re very far from the giant necropolis we know today. And it’s hard to believe it.

L’Histoire du cimetière du Père Lachaise à ParisL’Histoire du cimetière du Père Lachaise à ParisL’Histoire du cimetière du Père Lachaise à ParisL’Histoire du cimetière du Père Lachaise à Paris

So, how did the Père-Lachaise become what it is now? Thanks to mass communication. In order to make the cemetery more attractive for Parisians, the Prefect of Paris took a decision that brought about major change: moving the remains of famous and admired celebrities to the Père-Lachaise. This is how the bodies of famous writer Molière and famous fable writer Jean de la Fontaine are buried next to each other in the cemetery. The bodies of the famous couple with a hectic affair, Héloïse’s and Abélard’s, are also moved. It’s a success: the cemetery that welcomes only 2000 graves in 1815, finds itself with 33,000 graves in 1830. Very quickly, the Père-Lachaise cemetery increases to become the giant cemetery with 70,000 sepulchers and over 3 million yearly visitors.

Visiting hours:
From November to mid-March
Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Sunday and public holidays, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

From mid-March to October
Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday and public holidays, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Rizhlaine F.
Last updated on 9 March 2018

Practical information

Location

Boulevard de Ménilmontant
75020 Paris 20

Prices
Free

Official website
pere-lachaise.com

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