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Memorial to the dead | © JLPC/WikiCommons
Memorial to the dead | © JLPC/WikiCommons
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The Most Moving Monuments In Perè Lachaise Cemetery

Picture of Vy Dan Tran
Updated: 24 November 2016
Getting away from the hustle and bustle of Paris’s tourist attractions, Perè Lachaise Cemetery is a perfect escapism. This relaxing yet poignant spot is more than a typical cemetery. Its remarkable monuments tell stories of the deceased in the most affecting way. Artistic sculptural and architectural works were commissioned to pay tribute to not only high-profile individuals but also groups of anonymous people. Here is a list of the most touching tombs in the cemetery.
Memorial to the dead | © JLPC/WikiCommons
Memorial to the dead | © JLPC/WikiCommons

Monument aux Morts

Designed by Paul-Albert Bartholomé in the 19th century, Monument aux Morts is a memorial to unidentified deceased Parisians. This enormous temple-like monument can be seen as a shelter for the unknown dead who do not have graves of their own. Behind the monument is a communal ossuary, which keeps the remains of these people. Located on the bottom part is a female figure protecting a couple and their child, all of whom are in repose. The angel-like woman may be an ‘Allegory of Life.’ The French inscription under her left arm can be translated as ‘For those who live in the shadow of darkness, the light shines.’

Monuments to the Holocaust’s victims

These monuments commemorate Jewish people from all walks of life who were witnesses of a horrific time in the history of Europe. Most of them depict skeletal and unrecognizable figures lying down or doing physical labor. Some are abstract and minimalist. One of them shows footprints of the victims on stone, which lead towards an obelisk. It is a simple memorial yet powerful enough to move visitors. Among adult-size footprints, smaller ones signify children victims.

Heloise and Abelard's tomb | © Patrick T. Power/WikiCommons
Heloise and Abelard’s tomb | © Patrick T. Power/WikiCommons

Heloise and Abelard

This sepulchral chapel tells the sad love story of the medieval couple, Heloise and Abelard. Abelard first met Heloise, a noble young lady, when he was hired to be her teacher. The tragedy started when their secret marriage was discovered by the bride’s uncle. Heloise was then sent to a nunnery while Abelard became a monk. Around 1817, their remains were brought together to the Père Lachaise. Symbolizing eternal love, today their tomb has become a shrine full of love letters written by modern visitors.

Georges Rodenbach's tomb | © Pierre-Yves Beaudouin/WikiCommons
Georges Rodenbach’s tomb | © Pierre-Yves Beaudouin/WikiCommons

Georges Rodenbach

Rodenbach was a Symbolist author who wrote literature in the 19th century in Belgium. His touching stories and poems reflect his romantic soul. He was most associated with Bruges, the city featured in his famous short novel Bruges-la-Morte (1892). It is about the tragedy of a man who lost his wife and the melancholia of the quiet city. Above all, it depicts the decay of the very romantic Bruges. Could then the graceful rose held in his hand symbolize the very last breath of the beautiful city as well as the life of the sensitive writer?

Victor Noir

The bronze statue above the tomb of Victor Noir evokes sympathy for the 19th-century French journalist who died at the age of 22, as it was only a few days before his wedding. He was a victim of injustice because Pierre Napoléon Bonaparte, a royal member, murdered him and was not charged. Without knowing much of his story, contemporary visitors can still feel sympathy for him by the fact that he died young. In order to visualize his moment of death, the sculptor carefully portrayed his unbuttoned trousers and shirt, his bullet wound and his top hat falling away from his right hand. The statue captures the youth of the young man and eternalizes a momentary event. Today the memorial has become a fertility symbol.

Tomb of August Blanqui | © Pierre-Yves Beaudouin
Tomb of August Blanqui | © Pierre-Yves Beaudouin

Louis-Auguste Blanqui

Blanqui’s bronze statue evokes sadness as it portrays a corpse-like figure covered in a plain drapery. The skeletal man resonates with the body of Jesus Christ and reflects his suffering. Living in France in the 19th century, Blanqui was an admirable socialist whose political activities led him to be imprisoned most of his adulthood. His sculpture was a commission paid for by the public.