Discover its most famous tombs
In addition to the famous Panthéon, Paris also has four world-famous cemeteries built in the early 19th-century: Montmartre in the north, Père-Lachaise in the east, Passy in the west and Montparnasse in the south. One of these cemeteries is home to one of the most visited tombs in the world. Do you know where it is and who is buried there?
The most visited tomb in the world
Panthéon: the Panthéon is the resting place of many famous French figures, including Voltaire (great Enlightenment writer), Rousseau (revolutionary thinker), Victor Hugo (author of Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame), Émile Zola (father and greatest exponent of Naturalism), scientist Marie Curie, Louis Braille (inventor of the tactile reading and writing system for people who are visually impaired), Jean Monnet (one of the fathers of the European Union) and Soufflot (architect of the Panthéon itself). The coffin of Alexandre Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers, has also been in the Panthéon since November 2002, covered with a velvet cloth bearing the musketeers’ maxim “One for all, all for one”. There are also two commemorative plaques in memory of famous French writers killed in the First and Second World Wars. And its walls bear the names of more than 1,000 famous figures in the history of the French Republic. In 1851 Foucault set up his famous pendulum in the Panthéon, since it offered the perfect height for carrying out his experiment to demonstrate the rotation of the earth. In 1995 a replica of the pendulum was installed at the Panthéon.
Montparnasse Cemetery: another very popular cemetery in Paris, open since 1824. It spreads out over 19 ha and contains 35,000 tombs. Some of the famous people buried here include writer Julio Cortázar, the seven-times president of Mexico Porfirio Díaz, Irish playwright Samuel Beckett and the famous liberal couple Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.
Père-Lachaise Cemetery: the most popular cemetery in the world, with over 2 million visitors a year. It is also the oldest of the city’s famous cemeteries. In was opened in 1804 and has over 70,000 tombs spread over 40 ha, including that of The Doors singer, Jim Morrison, who was walking through the cemetery with a friend shortly before he died and said he wanted to be buried there. Morrison’s grave is one of the most visited tombs in the world, along with those of William Shakespeare, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson. Other famous people buried here include leading figures from the literary world such as Cyrano de Bergerac, Molière, Oscar Wilde, Honoré de Balzac, Marcel Proust and Apollinaire; composers such as Rossini and Chopin; sopranos such as Maria Callas and famous French singer Édith Piaf; great artists such as Delacroix, Camille Pissarro, Géricault, Jacques-Louis David and Modigliani with his lover Jeanne Hébuterne (who committed suicide after the painter’s death). You’ll also find the tombs of Georges Méliès, illusionist and filmmaker famous for A Trip to the Moon, and Jean Moulin, Second World War resistance hero. The Communards’ Wall was where 147 communists were shot in May 1871. One of the most beautiful tombs in the whole of Paris is that of Abélard and Héloïse, famous for their story of impossible love.
Passy Cemetery: opened in 1820, it was the aristocrats’ cemetery par excellence as it was very close to the Eiffel Tower. It is only 2 ha big, but it has plenty of famous tombstones. One of the most surprising is that of Marie Bashkirtseff (famous French writer, painter and sculptor), which recreates her studio. Other leading lights from the arts buried here include French comic actor Fernandel, Impressionist painter Édouard Manet and acclaimed composers Claude Debussy, Jacques Ibert and Gabriel Fauré. Marcel Renault, one of the brothers who set up the famous automobile company, is also buried here.
Montmartre Cemetery: the cemetery in the city’s most bohemian neighbourhood was opened in 1825. It spreads out over more than 11 ha and contains over 20,000 tombs. Some of most famous are those of writers such as Stendhal, Alexandre Dumas fils (author of La Dame aux camélias), Émile Zola (although his remains are in the Panthéon), Heinrich Heine and Ernest Renan. Other famous tombs include those of León Foucault (physicist), Edgar Degas and Gustave Moreau (painters), François Truffaut (film director), Jacques Offenbach (composer) and André-Marie Ampère (mathematician). There are two remarkable tombs here: one belongs to exceptional Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, with a sculpture of a harlequin seated on his tombstone, and the other belongs to famous singer Dalida (who committed suicide in her house in Montmartre), with an impressive sculpture of her whole body with sunbeams behind it.