Call it an "acceptable" fascination as compared to a fetish or obsession but I have been curious about graveyards since I was eight years old. I'm not alone in this because a trip to Washington, D.C, for example, is not complete without visiting the "other" Kennedy Compound at Arlington National Cemetery. Likewise in London where, saving a coronation, Westminster Abbey is arguably of little real interest beyond the hundreds of notables interred in crypts and the very floor of the building.
A French friend of mine invited me over to visit his new place in Paris one year which, of course, I couldn't resist. While I was on vacation he would be working but offered a few tips outside of the normal attractions to occupy my time until we could meet up for dinner in the evenings.
Directions in hand and a quick rundown on how to change trains in the massive Paris metro system and I was off to Cimitiere du Pere Lachaise, the largest graveyard in the French capital. He rattled off a few names that I would know to peak my interest but the best advice he gave was merely to walk around and see how many names I could recognize as well as simply enjoying the designs and architecture of the various crypts.
"Findagrave.Com" lists 340 noteworthy individuals laid to rest at Pere Lachaise but failing to rest in peace. No less than three metro stations bring visitors to the various entrances of the sloped necropolis which can pose a decent challenge to some in getting around the various levels and small hills within. An entire day can be spent here assuming there is nothing better to do or new to discover in Paris but, like any museum, pre-planning or an expert tour guide can fill an enjoyable and reasonable couple of hours.
The architecture lives up to billing in the various markers, from wall plaques in the crematorium and simple markers all the way up to the over the top creations such as the lipstick covered memorial to Oscar Wilde, all in various states of maintenance and disrepair. The faithful are undeterred. Permanent foot traffic and impromptu testimonials have prompted varying attempts at security for the resting place of Jim Morrison. Likewise, pictured here, is the grave of an otherwise unremarkable man by the name of Victor Noir caught up in remarkable events and paying the ultimate price for his engagement.
The bronze was sculpted to depict Noir as if he had only just fallen from the gunshot wound that killed him. Whether or not gunplay caused arousal in the man is hard to say. The lifelike rendering of his image, however, and especially his prominent, well worn package, have gained him lasting fame for those who desire children, a spouse or just some good old fashioned prowess.
Only in Paris.... And no to the neophytes, Napoleon is not here. He has his own special corner of the city under the golden dome of the church at Les Invalides.