Pere Lachaise cemetery, located in Paris, France, is the largest cemetery in the city and one of the most visited cemeteries in the world. At Pere Lachaise, one can visit the graves of numerous celebrities from the realms of history, music, literature, art, theatre, and science. In addition, the cemetery contains five World War I memorials, boasts beautiful landscaping and a romantic atmosphere, and offers a rich variety of funerary art from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The origins of Pere Lachaise cemetery as a final resting place for the famous began when the cemetery was first opened in 1804. Pere Lachaise was one of many cemeteries opened during this time outside the center of Paris in response to a ban on cemeteries within the capital, which were considered a health hazard. The popularity and prestige of the cemetery was something of a marketing scheme by the Napoleonic government, as the remains of 17th century French authors La Fontaine and Moliere were moved there the same year it was opened. This stunt was followed 13 years later by the interment of the legendary Medieval lovers Heloise and Abelard, accompanied by a spectacular monument in their honor. This cemetery quickly became the most popular place in Paris to be buried.
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Today, tourists from all over the world visit this cemetery for its unique atmosphere and its famous grave sites. The distinction of most visited grave goes to that of Jim Morrison, American songwriter and lead singer of The Doors. Due to continued vandalism, his grave is now under constant surveillance by a security guard. Other entertainers buried here include French singer Edith Piaf, American dancer Isidora Duncan, and actors Sarah Bernhardt, Yves Montand, and Simone Signoret.
Many of the famous tombs in Pere Lachaise house the remains of those who have contributed to the world of high culture. Famous authors include Honore de Balzac, Marcel Proust, Alfred de Musset, Gerard de Nerval, Guillaume Apollinaire, Colette, Oscar Wilde, Richard Wright, Gertrude Stein, and Alice B. Toklas. Artists buried here include Eugene Delacroix, Gustave Dore, Camille Pissarro, Georges-Pierre Seurat, Pierre Paul Prud'hon, Gustave Caillebotte, Theodore Gericault, Rene Lalique, and Max Ernst. Composers Frederic Chopin and George Enescu round out the list. The cemetery is also the resting place of some eminent scientists, including physiologist Claude Bernard, engineer Zenobe Gramme, and sociologist Henri de Saint-Simon.
Pere Lachaise is a must see for anyone visiting Paris. The cemetery has its own Metro stop, and maps of famous grave sites are available from many nearby vendors. It's a good idea to look at a map and plan out your itinerary before entering the cemetery, as its size can be overwhelming, and it can be quite a trek between grave sites.