Pere Lachaise Cemetery

The Pere Lachaise Cemetery is Paris’ largest cemetery and is situated in the 20th arrondissement. It can be seen at the Boulevard de Ménilmontant.

Said to be the most visited throughout the world, many people from France and even all around the world visit to the cemetery through the Paris Metro, another symbol of Paris known mostly for the density of people that uses it within the city and its Art Nouveau design. One of the Paris Metro’s station—the Philippe Auguste station on line 2—is at the junction of the 11th and 20th arrondissements, which is just beside the main entrance of the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Another station, the Pere Lachaise which serves lines 2 and 3 on the corner of the 11th and 20th arrondissements, is about 500 meters away from one of the cemetery’s side entrance. Most tourists’ favorite way of getting into the cemetery, however, is through the Gambetta station of the Paris Métro, which serves Line 3 and the southern terminus of Line 3. This particular station allows them to enter near the tomb of literary great Oscar Wilde, an Irish poet and one of London’s most popular playwrights during the late 19th century. From here, tourists can walk downhill to visit the rest of the cemetery.

The cemetery took its name from a well-known confessor to Louis XIV, Pere Francois de la Chaise. He was a French Jesuit priest who lived in the Jesuit house that was rebuilt in 1862 on what would become the location of the present cemetery. From this place, a hillside, the Sun King had a vantage view while watching the fight during the Fronde civil war between the Conde, led by French general and Prince of Conde Louis de Bourbon, and Turenne, under the leadership of Henri de la Tour d’Auvergne, Vicomte of Turenne. In 1804, the city of Paris brought that same hilly site. The great French military commander Napoleon Bonaparte established it to become a cemetery, and one of the most prominent French architects of that time, Alexandre-Theodore Brongniart, was tasked to design it.

When the Pere Lachaise Cemetery was first opened, it attracted only a few funerals because it was considered too far from the city. For this reason, the cemetery’s administrators decided to transfer the remains of Jean de la Fontaine, the most fabulous French fabulist, and Moliere, a French playwright and actor considered to be among the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature as a marketing strategy. The remains of Peter Abelard, a medieval French scholastic, philosopher, and theologian, together with the legendary Heloise d’Argenteuil, a French nun, writer, scholar and abbess who was rumored to be his lover, were also transferred to the cemetery along with the canopy of their monument which were created from the pieces of the abbey of Nogent-sur-Seine. The administrators believed that becoming known as the final resting ground of these famous people will attract their fans and admirers. And true enough, people began favoring the cemetery over the others when deciding where to bury their loved ones and a year created 33,000 compared to the past years’ few dozen residents. Today, Pere Lachaise holds over a million bodies aside from those in the columbarium, which holds cremated remains.

The Pere Lachaise Cemetery attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually to the graves of people who created a difference in France during the past two centuries. The cemetery is also a historical place, because it houses the Communard’s Wall. This is the site of the trench where 157 combatants of the Paris Commune were thrown. The wall had since became the symbol of the people’s struggle for their liberty and ideals. Apart from this, the cemetery has also been the venue of three World War I memorials.

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