Wednesday, September 16, 2009

UNDERGROUND
It may seem incongruous to think of a cemetery as a park, but that’s just what Père Lachaise Cemetery is to hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. There are areas where people come to read, have a quite lunch, or just sit meditatively. Despite the large number of people wandering the “streets”, the atmosphere remains hushed and respectful throughout the crowded jumble of tombs.
Homage is paid to many recognizable names: Oscar Wilde, Abelard & Heloise, Chopin, Maria Callas, Delacroix, Max Ernst, Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison (there seems to be confusion and contradiction about whether or not Jim Morrisonn’s remains are still in this grave or have been moved to the US), Sarah Bernhardt, Balzac, Alice Toklas and Moliere, as well as to loved ones known only to family and friends.
Perhaps we had a theme going this week as we also walked through the neatly arranged rows of the Montparnasse Cemetery which has several sculptural monuments created by Niki St. Phalle, just before joining a Paris Walks tour of the Catacombs.

9 comments:

Virginia said...

I'm not a huge cemetery fan , but my friend Mary Gilbert has made me appreciate Montparnasse Cemetery and Peter introduced me to the Montmartre Cemetery as well. Your images are lovely.
V

Virginia Vanneman said...

Interesting to reminisce with these photos. I recently watched Julie Delpy's "Two Days in Paris," a very funny film about a couple in Paris. It has a bit in it about the fantasy of going to Morrison's grave. Actually, I have a picture of his gravesite from the late 80s when the original head bust was still there and the fan base had desecrated the cemetery with poems, scribblings and markers. I think that the French government soon after cleaned it up, removed the head stone and threatened to exhume his body if this type of abuse continued. Unfortunately for the cemetery, they found they had no recourse and that the grave had been leased in perpetuity. At the time I photographed, I didn't really understand how enduring the obsession of his site as a tourist destination would become.

Polly said...

Virginia V (not to be confused with Virginia of http://paristhroughmylens.blogspot.com/)!!! - It is my understanding that the lease on JM's grave site ran out after 30 years and that his family had his remains moved to the US, but I have not been able to confirm this. Nonetheless, it remains one of the most simple tombs and most visited sites at Pere LaChaise.

Polly said...

Virginia, thanks for the kind words! I admire your constancy in maintaining multiple daily blogs and hope all my lovers-of-Paris are also following your great pics and stories at http://paristhroughmylens.blogspot.com/

Virginia said...

Polly,
You're a dear to link to my blogs. I love all things French as you well know. I worry that my stash is running out. Peter says I have a lot left. I hope so. Well if I run out............I'll just have to pack my bags and jump the pond. I'm dreaming of that my friend.
V

Polly said...

Paris is wonderful to visit year round!

Peter said...

Wonderful photos, including from the catacombs (on which I have not yet posted)!

Maybe one remark; Niki has signed something on the grave with the Birdman, but I believe that the sculpture is by her partner Jean Tinguely. I posted on this once and hed big problems to find out. :-)

Polly said...

Could be... I just took the word of the guard on duty, and as you know, the info on the web is not definitive!
In any case, it's an intriguing sculpture. Thanks for dropping by....

Barrier Island Girl said...

Polly, these are wonderful photos. I'm drawn to cemeteries and our history which we are able to decipher in part through their headstones. St. Michaels in Pensacola is one of my favorite and I learn so much about our past each time I walk through.

Thank you for sharing.

DJ