Père Lachaise Cemetery is the largest cemetery in the city of Paris
(44 hectares (110 acres)), though there are larger cemeteries in the city's suburbs.Père Lachaise is in the 20th arrondissement, and is reputed to be the World
's most visited cemetery, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors annually to the graves of those who have enhanced French life over the past 200 years. It is also the site of three World War I memorials.
The cemetery is on Boulevard de Ménilmontant. The Paris Métro station Philippe Auguste
on line 2 is next to the main entrance, while the station called Père Lachaise, on both lines 2 and 3, is 500 metres away near a side entrance. Many tourists prefer the Gambetta Station
on line 3, as it allows them to enter near the tomb of Oscar Wilde and then walk downhill to visit the rest of the cemetery.
The cemetery takes its name from the confessor to Louis XIV, Père François de la Chaise (1624–1709), who lived in the Jesuit house rebuilt in 1682 on the site of the chapel. The property, situated on the hillside from which the king during the Fronde, watched skirmishing between the Condé and Turenne
, was bought by the city in 1804. Established by Napoleon in this year, the cemetery was laid out by Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart, and later extended.
Père Lachaise Cemetery was opened on 21 May 1804. The first person buried there was a five-year-old girl named Adélaïde Pailliard de Villeneuve, the daughter of a door bell-boy of the Faubourg St. Antoine. Napoleon Bonaparte as a consul declared that “Every citizen has the right to be buried regardless of race or religion”.Several new cemeteries replaced the Parisian ones, outside the precincts of the capital: Montmartre
Cemetery in the north, Père Lachaise in the east, and Montparnasse Cemetery
in the south. At the heart of the city, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower
, is Passy Cemetery
The Crematory And Columbarium
A funerary chapel was erected in 1823 by Etienne-Hippolyte Godde at the exact place of the ancient Jesuit house. This same Neoclassical architect created the monumental entrance a few years later.A columbarium and a crematorium of a Neo-Byzantine style were designed in 1894 by Jean Camille Formigé.
Père Lachaise is still an operating cemetery and accepting new burials. However, the rules to be buried in a Paris cemetery are rather strict: people may be buried in one of these cemeteries if they Die
in the French capital city or if they lived there. Being buried in Père Lachaise is even more difficult nowadays as there is a waiting list: very few plots are available.The gravesites at Père Lachaise range from a simple, unadorned headstone to towering monuments and even elaborate mini chapels dedicated to the memory of a well-known person or family. Many of the tombs are about the size and shape of a telephone booth, with just enough space for a mourner to step inside, kneel to say a prayer, and leave some flowers.
The cemetery manages to squeeze an increasing number of bodies into a finite and already crowded space. One way it does this is by combining the remains of multiple family members in the same grave. At Père Lachaise, it is not uncommon to reopen a grave after a body has decomposed and inter another coffin. Some family mausoleums or multi-family tombs contain dozens of bodies, often in several separate but contiguous graves. Shelves are usually fitted out to accommodate them.In relatively recent times, Père Lachaise has adopted a standard practice of issuing 30-year leases on gravesites, so that if a lease is not renewed by the family, the remains can be removed, space made for a new grave, and the overall deterioration of the cemetery minimized. Abandoned remains are boxed, tagged and moved to Aux Morts ossuary, in Père Lachaise cemetery.
Plots can be bought in perpetuity, for 50, 30 or 10 years, the last being the least expensive option. Even in the case of mausoleums and chapels, coffins are most of the time below ground.