Saturday, July 9, 2011

City of the Dead

In the 11th arrondissement just east of the Bastille neighbourhood in Paris, John and I revisited the Père Lachaise Cemetery. At the end of the entrance avenue, one finds Paul Albert Bartholomé's stunning Monument aux Morts dedicated to all those buried here.
It truly is a city of the dead. It has long been favoured as a resting place for the rich and famous. You can purchase a map at the gate to help navigate your way through its avenues and footpaths between the tombs and mausoleums. 
You can also join a tour group with an expert guide to find the grave sites of artists like Molière, Chopin, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Oscar Wilde, Isadora Duncan, Sarah Bernhardt, Edith Piaf, Simone Signoret and Yves Montand and even Jim Morrison just to name a few.
 Or climb the forested hill overlooking Paris on your own and wonder at the many tombs and sculptures. That's what we did and even with a map we got lost and failed to find some of the most famous resting places. Mind you many of the graves of the 20th century dead are modest compared to the grand structures and sculptures of the 19th century rich.
John, of course, revelled in photographing the details of the tombs
like these peep-holes in the metal doors hinting at the stained glass within.
We are both fascinated by the beautiful, life-sized figure of Victor Noir, a young, activist journalist shot by Prince Pierre Bonaparte in the 19th century. He lies prostrate as if he has just been killed. The handsome young man has become a hero and a fertility symbol. Women wishing to become pregnant visit his image and kiss his lips
whilst rubbing his crotch and then leave flowers in his top hat to gain the desired effect. From the gleaming metal, one can see how many visitors he has had.
John loved this touching tribute left in his left hand.
Come to wander and enjoy the interesting sculpture and the resting places of the famous.
We always find the experience both moving and restful. The major cemeteries of Europe are like none other. There is much beauty and magic to be found there.

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