Last Updated on September 6, 2023 by April | Dreaming in French
Do you want to know where the most well-known tombs in Père Lachaise Cemetery, the first garden cemetery in the world, are located?
Père Lachaise Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Paris. With over 3.5 million people visiting it every year, this massive cemetery receives its fair share of attention. And there is a very good reason for that. The cemetery is home to a number of famous graves, including those of Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, and Oscar Wilde.
While the cemetery makes for an odd attraction, it is definitely worth a look while you are visiting Paris. The cemetery is so big that nobody knows for certain the number of people buried here. However, estimates hover anywhere around 300,000 to 1,000,000. What’s for sure, though, is the fact that it is home to some of the most famous graves in the world.
These may be the tombs you remember best.
History of Père Lachaise Cemetery
The Père Lachaise cemetery was established in 1804 and is named after Père François de la Chaise (1624–1709), the confessor of Louis XIV, who resided in the Jesuit residence that was erected in 1682 on the site of the chapel. The city acquired the property in 1804; it was perched on a hill from where the king observed battles between the Condé and Turenne troops during the Fronde.
Plans for the cemetery were created by Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart that year, and Napoleon later expanded the land. Three days previously, the Senate had crowned Napoleon Emperor, and he had stated before the Consulate that “Every citizen has the right to be buried regardless of race or religion.”
If you’re looking for intriguing museums to see in Paris, you can check out these 10 Unusual Museums in Paris You Must Visit too!
Père Lachaise Cemetery: A Tour of the Famous Graves
1. Oscar Wilde: 1854-1900
Oscar Wilde, an Irish playwright, writer, journalist, and poet, was found guilty of “gross indecency with men” by a British court and condemned to two years in jail with hard labor just as he was beginning to experience enormous success and fame. He escaped to France after being freed and lived there as an exile until his death from meningitis three years later.
Jacob Epstein, a sculptor, built Wilde’s Egyptian-themed mausoleum in Père Lachaise. Over time, visitors began applying thick layers of lipstick on their lips before kissing the monument, which caused the stone to deteriorate. As seen in the picture above, a glass barrier installed in 2011 has only partially succeeded in stopping the kisses. (Division 89)
2. Victor Noir: 1848-1870
Probably one of the biggest reasons behind Père Lachaise Cemetery’s popularity is the interesting grave of Victor Noir. Victor Noir was a French journalist who was shot and killed by the cousin of the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. His murder was met with infuriation on the public’s part and led to countless violent riots on the streets of France.
However, it wasn’t his death that made him famous. Rather, it was his grave.
French sculptor, Jules Dalou, created the sculpture of Noir’s grave. For some reason, Dalou decided to give the journalist a noticeable bulge under the belt.
This bulge rapidly triggered a lot of interest from visitors. So much so that the grave is now considered a symbol of fertility and sexual happiness, with many women touching the bulge for good luck. (Division 92)
3. Georges-Eugene Haussmann: 1775-1825
Georges-Eugene Haussmann better known as Baron Haussmann, a civil servant, had a prominent role in transforming Paris during Napoleon III’s empire. He brought in clean water, built a better sewage system, and transformed the streets of Paris from narrow paths to a much more modern and grander walkway.
Today, he is known as both the man who destroyed the beauty of medieval Paris and the man who built the beautiful modern Paris. This influential man’s grave is one that is not to be missed by history buffs when visiting Paris. (Division 4)
4. Amadeo Modigliani: 1884-1920
Modigliani, was an Italian artist who moved to Paris as a young 18-year-old. He spent most of his life there, mainly becoming well-known for his paintings of women with elongated faces and bodies.
Modigliani’s grave is one of the most difficult graves to find in Père Lachaise. It is hidden not too far from Piaf’s. He is buried next to his life partner, Jeanne Hebuterne, who committed suicide out of sorrow two days after the artist’s death. (Division 96)
5. Édith Piaf: 1915-1963
Édith Piaf, the singer of La Vie en Rose, led a life that was nothing short of a soap opera. Piaf’s life revolved around the great city of Paris – it began and ended there.
The singer grew up in poverty-stricken situations as a child but her talent for singing served as her big-ticket to stardom. She performed in local bars and clubs before finally achieving global success.
While Piaf’s musical career was short, her fans are many. Thousands of people pay their respect to the singer every day by visiting her grave. You will always find her tomb adorned with flowers by her fans. (Division 97)
6. Elizaveta Alexandrovna Stroganova 1776-1818
Elizaveta Alexandrovna Stroganova, was a Russian aristocrat and has the grave to go along with that title. Her resting place is one of the most massive ones you will ever set your eyes on, with her grave stretching several storeys high towards the sky. (Division 19)
7. Georges Rodenbach: 1855-1898
It may not come as a surprise to see a bronze figure in his image clutching a rose as he emerges from his granite grave because Belgian author and poet Georges Rodenbach loved fin de siècle symbolism and stressed the interaction between romance and tragedy in his works.
Given that the Rodenbach burial is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular in the cemetery, don’t be surprised to see throngs gathered around it. His memorial prayer was, “Lord, grant me this hope to live once more in the gloomy eternity of the book.” (Division 15)
8. Jim Morrison: 1943-1971
The famed American rockstar Jim Morrison, has the busiest grave in Père Lachaise Cemetery. If you are visiting Paris and want to take a look at his grave, be ready to encounter large crowds.
The singer died in Paris and his grave was left unmarked for some time. As soon as his grave was marked, however, there were several vandalism occurrences, such as people stealing the bust of the musician.
So much so that the cemetery officials had to appoint a guard to stop people from defacing or destroying the tomb in any way.
You will often find hordes of fans leaving heartfelt letters and flowers on the singer’s resting place. (Division 6)
9. Frédéric Chopin: 1810-1849
Frédéric Chopin, a Polish composer and pianist who suffered from ill health for the majority of his brief life, was praised during his lifetime for best capturing the Romantic period, and his reputation has only become better after his passing. There are many people that visit his tomb in Père Lachaise. The statue of Euterpe, the Muse of Music, was made by Jean-Baptiste Clésinger for his grave.
A statue of Eugène, Muse of Music, was made by Jean-Baptiste Clésinger for his grave. Mourning over a broken lyre, sits atop Chopin’s gravestone.
An interesting fact about Chopin’s grave is that all of the legendary composer’s remains are buried in Père Lachaise except his heart. It was returned to his hometown in Warsaw. (Division 11)
10. Marcel Marceau: 1923-2007
Marceau, was a renowned French mime artist and actor. He was best known for his persona Bip the Clown. He was also a prominent member of the French Resistance during World War II and helped rescue numerous children from concentration camps.
When visiting Paris, giving a visit to the legendary actor’s grave is a must to pay your respects to both his talent and charitable acts. (Division 21)
11. Fernand Arbelot (1880-1942)
Although Belgian sculptor Adolphe Wansart’s lifelike sculpture of French actor Fernand Arbelot lying on his tomb while holding a mask representing his grieving wife supposedly to allow him to gaze at her through eternity—may no longer be remembered for his own achievements, it initially appears to be touchingly romantic. (Division 11)
11. Mano Solo: 1963-2010
Mano Solo (born Emmanuel Cabut) was a well-known French singer-songwriter, guitarist, artist, activist for restoring equality (the inscription “Les Enfants de FaZa SoMa” on his grave refers to his support for the indigenous people of Madagascar), and occasionally actor and DJ. He was well-known in the avant-garde Parisian music scene for his appearances at the Bataclan and Olympia.
After 20 years of fighting AIDS, he passed away in 2010 at the age of 46. (Division 10)
12. Simone Signoret: 1921-1985 and Yves Montand: 1921-1991
French actresses Simone Signoret and Yves Montand, who were married in 1951 and shared a number of films together, were of German and Italian descent. In recognition of her performance in Room at the Top, Signoret, who had been a member of the intellectual gathering that took place at Café de Flore during World War II, received an Academy Award for Best Actress. Because of his attractiveness, Montand was cast in many French and American films as well as on Broadway. He was also a singer and regularly appeared at the Olympia in Paris. (Division 44)
Père Lachaise Cemetery Visitor Information
Address: 16 Rue du Repos, 75020 Paris, France
– Opens at 8am Monday-Friday, 8:30am on Saturday, 9am on Sunday
– Closes at 5:30pm from November through mid-March, and at 6pm from mid-March through October
– Last admission is 15 minutes before closing
Days Closed: January 1, Easter, Easter Monday, Ascension Day, May 1, May 8, Whitsunday, Whit Monday, July 14, August 15, November 1, November 11, December 25
– Porte Principale – Main entrance – Boulevard de Ménilmontant, across from Rue de la Roquette (Metro: Philippe Auguste or Père-Lachaise)
– Porte du Repos – 16 Rue du Repos (Metro: Philippe August)
– Porte de la Réunion – Look for this entrance where Rue de la Réunion dead-ends at the cemetery; not accessible due to a flight of stairs if you have reduced mobility
– Porte des Amandiers – Boulevard de Ménilmontant, across from Père-Lachaise metro station; not accessible due to a flight of stairs if you have reduced mobility (Metro: Père-Lachaise)
– Porte Gambetta – Rue des Rondeaux, opposite Avenue du Père Lachaise (Metro: Gambetta)
What You Should Know Before Visiting Père Lachaise Cemetery
Père Lachaise is a well-liked tourist destination in Paris, but it is an operational cemetery, not a park or open-air museum, and its managers forbid anything that would disrupt the peace. This includes listening to music, making loud noises of any kind, and consuming anything other water (so skip the packed lunch).
It is forbidden to climb atop tombs or sit on them in order to feed animals by tossing or throwing food at them. Dogs (even those on leashes), running, and jogging are prohibited, as are bicycles, scooters, vehicles (unless you’re 75 or older or disabled and have documents to verify this), and anything else with wheels like skateboards.
Put on a pair of good walking shoes because you will be walking on uneven or rocky ground in addition to cobblestones.
There are public toilets at Père Lachaise next to the Main, Réunion, and Gambetta gates, as well as 24 drinking fountains dotted across the park. But I would advise you to bring your own water bottle because most fountains shut off in the winter and occasionally at other times.
Want to Find Out More about Famous Graves at Père Lachaise Cemetery?
Findagrave.com – To locate a specific grave, use the search option. The data is often correct, and there are also helpful images, connections to authoritative information sources, and GPS locations.