Père Lachaise Cemetery and Oscar Wilde
In How to do Paris in 24 Hours (surprisingly to me one of the most popular posts in Wandering Mee), I had a little mention of Père Lachaise Cemetery, which is the largest cemeteries in Paris interning many famous figures.
That day, with such limited time, I went the first thing in the morning to the cemetery, armed with a printed map of the ground, marking all the ones I intended to pass by. Take a look at the map. Now. Click on the map link.
Does it seem doable? I thought so too. I marked 10-15 tombs: Héloïse and Abelard (the French version of Romeo and Juliet, but with castration), La Fontaine (author), Georges Méliès (filmmaker – watch Hugo), Jim Morrison (singer), Edith Piaf (singer), Marcel Proust (author), Honoré de Balzac (author), Chopin (musician), Jean-François Champollion (the decipherer of Egyptian hieroglyphs – the Brits might have Rosetta Stone, but it was the French who decrypted the lost language), Colette (author) – just to name a few.
But I did not expect the site to be that LARGE. I’m not sure what I expected – big number and name signs clearly marked for all the famous people tombs? That sounds theme-park-ish, and indeed it is not the case, because Père Lachaise is a real cemetery, with hundreds and hundreds of other people buried at the site in between the historical figures. Also as real tombs, you need to examine the engraving to know who is buried where, and this is often not immediately clear.
At the end I’m not sure if I even managed to find all those ones I marked – I tried, but quickly realized that I completely underestimated the size of the site and the scope of the task, so I just took some pictures along the way and went straight to Oscar Wilde’s tomb.
Oscar Wilde tomb is probably the most popular tomb on the site. He’s an Irish author of many short stories and plays, though only wrote one book (The Picture of Dorian Gray).
I love love love Oscar Wilde. He wrote stuff that makes my heart vibrate. Who doesn’t with quotes like these:
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”
“You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.”
I’m not sure when it started, but it has become a tradition for the fans of Oscar Wilde to visit his tomb and give it a big kiss, leaving lipstick mark. The tomb then got lipstick marks all over it, and the authorities considered them to be vandalism, so they put a glass barrier around it!
It is disappointing that they felt the need to do that. So now the glass barrier has lipstick marks all over it, but it’s not the same as leaving mark on the tomb.
Even if you’re not fan of a particular figure, Père Lachaise is still a fantastic site to visit and there are many photogenic spots. I promise I will visit again if I get a chance, and spare more time to closely examine the tombs. I think ideally you should spend at least 2-3 hours here!
Do you have famous people’s tomb near where you live? Any memorable cemetery visit?