31 October 2011

ArtOdysseys: Paris’ Haunted Père Lachaise Cemetery

Welcome to Paris' Pere Lachaise Cemetery.  Dare to walk along Errazu Way at night?  THIS PHOTO ONLY: Peter Poradisch via Wikimedia.org.

Welcome to ArtOdysseys—my monthly series dedicated to my love of art and travel, my mission wherever the roads or rivers may lead! October’s topic is Outdoor Sculpture and since we’re publishing on Halloween, I thought I would combine the two themes for a little paranormal fun and art education, hence my choice of the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris for its haunting mausoleums, tombs and headstones not to mention legends of otherworldly visits. Boo!

Dare to walk along the streets of the City of the Dead? Topping many lists of the world’s most haunted places, Père Lachaise Cemetery is Paris’ largest cemetery in the city proper. Located in the 20th arrondissement, Père Lachaise, named after Père Francois de la Chaise, confessor to Louis XIV, opened in 1802 and features 110 acres of some of the most exquisite and macabre sculptures in the world. Believed to be haunted, this is one place I would not venture out in the middle of a dark and gloomy night, especially on Halloween.

Reputed to walk among the living are: Adolphe Thiers, prime minister under King Louis-Philippe in the 19th century, who tugs on visitors’ clothes should they tread too close to his resting place. Jim Morrison of Doors fame is often seen roaming near his grave as well. Countless others see spectral lights, translucent figures and other disembodied spirits roaming throughout the cemetery and many have had close encounters too frightful to imagine.

The final resting place for many artists, actors, scientists, politicians, and others, Père Lachaise is a must-see stop when visiting the city of light. Those among the interred include Sidonie-Gabrielle Collette, Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Gertrude Stein, Edith Piaf, Marcel Marceau, Chopin and countless others who comprise a total population in excess of 300,000 in this “city of the dead.”

While this article started out as a lighthearted approach to Halloween and the spooky sculptures within Père Lachaise, I found my heart aching by the time I was finished with it because of the memorials to the prisoners of the WWII concentration camps. While their monuments are among the most macabre, their stories and their lives should be remembered and honored forever, and never taken half-heartedly!

Highlights on this haunted tour of Père Lachaise in Paris include:


Buchenwald-Dora Memorial by Louis Bancel.  THIS PHOTO ONLY: JHvW via Wikimedia.org.

Inaugurated in 1964, the Buchenwald-Dora Memorial honors victims of World War II and was designed by Louis Bancel, a mid-20th-century sculptor who was commissioned by the Association des Désportés de Buckwnwald-Dora to create this bronze macabre statue to honor the German Nazi Camp prisoners in 1957.

Tomb of Georges Rodenbach sculpted by Charlott Dubray. THIS PHOTO ONLY: Wp82 via Wikimedia.org.

Another fascinating and haunting funerary sculpture by French sculptor Charlott Dubray belongs to Georges Rodenbach, a 19th-century Belgian writer and poet most famous today for his novel entitled “Burges la Morte.” Obsessed with death evident in much of his work, he is pictured here rising from his earthly tomb with a rose in his hand.

Mauthausen Memorial.  THIS PHOTO ONLY: JHvW via Wikimedia.org.

The Mauthausen Memorial, among the most poignant and moving in my essay, honors French victims of the Austrian concentration camp who were sentenced to the labor camp to work to utter exhaustion and death. Inspired by the plight of those prisoners, the sculptor depicts one prisoner carrying a granite block up 186 steps known as the “Stairs of Death,” a suffering task endured by more than 100,000 prisoners.

Tomb of Oscar Wilde designed by Sir Jacob Epstein.  THIS PHOTO ONLY: JHvW via Wikimedia.org.

The Tomb of Oscar Wilde, the Irish writer and poet who penned “The Picture of Dorian Gray” in 1890, shows a half-demon, half-angel figure sculpted by Sir Jacob Epstein, an American-born British sculptor. The monument spawned quite a controversy for its exposed genitalia and while Parisian authorities succeeded in concealing it for awhile, it was later removed during WWII.

Tomb of Painter Theodore Gericault by sculptor Antoine Etex.  THIS PHOTO ONLY: Rama via Wikimedia.org.

Jean-Louis André Géricault’s final resting place was created by 19th-century painter, sculptor and architect Antoine Etex who actually created this and the following sculpture. Géricault’s tomb features a bronze statue of the painter and a relief of his highly controversial painting of the “Raft of the Medusa.”

Tomb of the Family Raspail by Antoine Etex.  THIS PHOTO ONLY: JHvW via Wikimedia.org.

Once again we see the work of Antoine Etex on this tomb for the Family Raspail where he sculpted Madame Rapali’s "Farewell to the Jailed Revolutionary," a ghost whose arm stretches upward from his shroud to the prison-barred window.

This is only a small sampling of the tens of thousands of monuments awaiting your visit at the Père Lachaise in Paris. Below is a quick video tour through other highlights of the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.



Additional Reading:

For information on tours, visit Viator Père Lachaise Gravestone Walking Tour

28 comments:

  1. Very artistic and perfect for Halloween!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Jeremy,
    Thanks so much for you compliments. I very much wanted to tie this month's topic of Outdoor Sculpture to Halloween since I am big fan of All-Hallows Eve. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Jeff, I really like this post. I've been to Paris although I never made it to this cemetery but two years ago, I went to New Orleans and looking at your photos now, I'm reminded so much of St Louis Cemetery No. 1 over there! They're similar in that they're both above ground but the Pere Lachaise appears to be more artistic, with all its (spooky) sculptures. Lovely photos :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Anis,

    Thank you so much for all of your kind words!! I have heard about the St. Louis Cemetary as well...and I understand it's haunted too...SPOOKY. Thanks you for stopping my and sharing your thoughts!!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. The cemeteries of Europe are wonderful places to see sculpture. (When you go to Prague, don't miss teh Velehrad cemetery!) I agree with you that the Mathausen memorial is particularly moving. Nice post, Jeff.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Jenna, I will definitely include Velehrad on my list when I get to Prague plus every other one of your recommendations! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow-- the art at this cemetery is amazing! I love the haunting sculptures. Thanks for introducing me to a place to put on my bucket list, Jeff!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Leslie...I know what you mean. I was blown away at the tombs and how beautiful and macabre the are. Thank you so for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Wow, you and Erin both reminded me that I need to get over the creepy vibes and visit more cemeteries when I travel. So much beautiful art there. I really love the hauntingly beautiful Buchenwald-Dora Memorial.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Kelly,

    I think I need to visit more of them as well. So many extraordinary sculptures with fascinating tales although some quite profound. Thank you for stopping by to share your thoughts!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Although I have been to Paris numerous times I have yet to make it to Pere Lachaise cemetery! I don't even have a good reason for not going because it has been on my list for a very long time! After reading this and seeing your pictures this will be my first stop on my next visit!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Debbie,
    This place is definitely worth a visit as you can see, it's full of poignant monuments and spectacular sculptures! Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I would not like to walk through the cemetery at night alone. Great article KEEP UP THE FABULOUS WORK.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi again Anonymous,
    I am with you. You wouldn't catch me dead, pun intended, in this place after dark, especially because of the local lore that tells of the haunted tales. Thank you again for your kind words and for stopping by!!

    ReplyDelete
  15. This is an interesting post, I found some of the creepy sculptures by the cemetery fascinating. You don't see that very often.. I remember I did a cemetery tour in Boston and it totally don't look like this haha.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Sarah, I agree...this is one spooky place but also very beautiful at the same time. You might say, hauntingly beautiful...oxymoron? Perhaps....Thx again for stopping by and comment!!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I did my Master's thesis on a French politician named Joseph Caillaux who was a French Prime Minister prior to World War I. He lies in this cemetery I believe. This is one place I missed when I went to Paris. Have to get back and check it out.

    Great pictures of the memorials to the Holocaust. I can see why your train of thought went from light-hearted to serious.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hi Ted,
    Wow, I didn't come across his name during my tour and research. Will need to look him up though especially since you wrote your thesis on him. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I was planning to visit here but I had no idea that there was so many other fascinating statues and graves to see. Thanks for the info!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there and thanks so much for stopping by!! I couldn't agree with you more about all of the fascinating tombs throughout the cemetery! Glad you enjoyed your tour!

      Delete
  20. Great Halloween Post! I haven't visited the Père Lachaise cementary in Paris yet but instead I was at the Montparnasse Cementary, there you can do quite the same stuff :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anita and thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind words! Never been to Montparnasse but will definitely check it out the next time I am in Paris! Thx again!

      Delete
  21. I love this cemetery, and always make time to come here. I find it so peaceful there. But wow this article gave me goosebumps! I also found some of the skillful artwork in the grave haunting with such deep meaning.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there Aggy and thx so much for stopping by. I too had chills as I researched these monuments/gravestones and was moved tremendously, especially by those honoring the victims of the holocaust.

      Delete
  22. One of my favorite places to go when I want some solo quiet time outside of the city center. So many famous people at rest here - Edith Piaf, Chopin, Moliere and more. There's a homey neighborhood bistro I visit for lunch nearby. A great way to spend an afternoon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there Robin and thank you so much for stopping by! I would love to visit this place with you especially the visit to the nearby bistro!!

      Delete
  23. what happened to Jim Morrison's, Edith Piaf's and then the Phantom of the Opera is supposed to haunt here also.??.. nonetheless, it was a great article!!! Loved the images...as usual.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there Susan and thank you again for stopping by. Morrison and Piaf are mentioned in the beginning but Phantom eluded me in my tour of the cemetery. ; ) Thank you for your kind words as well.

      Delete

Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!