The Père Lachaise is a must-visit cemetery when on Paris walking tours for its gothic-looking architecture, striking statues, tombstones, and mausoleums. Even if you are a fan of literature, history, fine arts, and music, this place in the 20th arrondissement is worth a visit. Many celebrities, artists, and several famous Frenchmen are laid to rest in the Père Lachaise.
The tombstone of Jim Morrison died at a young age in Paris and buried here is rife with graffiti messages and flowers being piled in adulation of his songs written with lyrical intensity. If you have heard his song ‘Light My Fire’, from the album titled ‘The Doors’, some part of Jim would have touched the music lover in you. Even if you have seen Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’, you will remember the excerpts from his song titled ‘The End’ used as an opening voice-over of the film on Vietnam War. His grave still remains to be an ode to psychedelic music.
Another tombstone that gets the same kind of admiration at the Père Lachaise is that of Oscar Wilde, who also died in the City of Lights having spent his final few days at the Hôtel d’Alsace renamed to L’ Hotel. The tomb of Oscar Wilde in the Parisian cemetery depicts a bas-relief of an angel as sculpted by Sir Jacob Epstein. The adulation for the poet was so wild that his fans even used to kiss on the tombstone but now a glass screen fences it. The tombstone features an inscription taken from the poem titled ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’.
The Frenchmen to have laid rest to here, with the most of number of followers coming from the world over, is a long list topped by singer Édith Piaf and playwright Jean-Baptiste Poquelin or Molière as people identify him as. You will also come across the burial places of Marcel Proust, Honoré de Balzac, and Camille Pissarro, when walking the largest cemetery in Paris.
While Proust wrote ‘In Search of Lost Time’, Balzac’s tryst with literature traces back to the Napoleonic age. Pissarro, on the other hand, was very much a part of the Impressionist movement centered on Paris. When walking the cemetery, also make it a point to visit the Communards’ Wall a 19th Century relic with traces of executed rebel fighters.