One of the most impressive and my all time favorite cemetery is the Cimetiere du Père Lachaise, in Paris. Located in the 20th arrondissement, it covers 110 acres and holds over 1 million people. The cemetery was established in 1804 by Napoleon, and is known as the first garden cemetery.
I’ll admit the main reason I wanted to visit Père Lachaise was to see the grave of Jim Morrison, as it had been on my bucket list for years. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time in Paris and I didn’t plan the route to Jim’s grave very well so when I arrived I had no map and a very limited idea of where his grave was located.
On top of that, this cemetery is like a maze with narrow streets and headstones and mausoleums packed in wherever they would fit.
If you’re a taphophile you could very easily spend hours exploring this cemetery. It is such a beautiful setting. I hope one day to be able to return to Paris because I missed some very famous graves here such as Oscar Wilde, Honoré de Balzac , Frédéric Chopin, and Édith Piaf.
The mausoleums here are just amazing. Many of them are intricately decorated, and unlike anything I had seen in the states. Due to the lack of space most of the mausoleums are family crypts containing the remains of numerous people.
I knew the approximate area where Jim was buried and knew that I was getting close. There were just so many graves, and I was running out of time before I had to leave. I began to hurry to try and find his small headstone obscured among the large mausoleums.
Finally, I turned a corner and spotted a group of people (and security guard) standing around a grave. I knew I had finally found it! Because of the massive amounts of Jim Morrison graffiti that had marred parts of Père Lachaise, a security guard is always standing watch nearby.
When Jim was buried at Père Lachaise, his minimal funeral was carried out in a hurry and in secret. His longtime girlfriend paid for the 30-year lease of his grave site. This was later upgraded to perpetuity by his parents. So, contrary to a popular rumor, Jim will not be going anywhere anytime soon.
Before leaving Paris I walked to Jim’s apartment where he died on July 3rd, 1971. While I could only stare through the doorway of 17 rue Beautreillis, it’s on my dream list of places to investigate one day! 😉
Cimetiere du Père Lachaise Gallery