Friday, October 03, 2008

Pere Lachaise Cemetery

I've been saving some of our holiday photos from Paris specifically for October, for this Post Spooky month. Since I'll be be on the road most of today, driving across the lovely (uhm, flat?) state of Nevada to an evening football game, this is a good day to share the first of several sets of photographs from our afternoon spent walking around Cimetière du Père Lachaise, 109 acres of eerie beauty.

When William and I were in Paris two years ago, we accidentally stumbled into the cemetery in Montparnasse. I didn't have a clue at the time which of the city's cemeteries we had visited, but one of the must-do's on my list for our return was to visit several more of them, specifically the Montmartre Cemetery and the largest and most famous cemetery, Pere Lachaise.

Let's just wander. For the most part, I think the photos speak just fine for themselves. You'll probably know as much about them as I.

So much detail. Such lovely statues. I really love the beauty of old cemeteries. The mortuary where we held Joshua's memorial service was set on the grounds of a huge, modern cemetery. I remember how stark and cold it seemed, row upon row of uniform square stones, some sections small headstones that barely rose above ground level, others forced to use flat no rise stones to make mowing easier. Clearly no flowers or other leavings were allowed as there were never a single thing marring the gray and green lawns except for less than a half dozen small trees begrudgingly planted, probably one per acre. How comforting can a cemetery like that be to the living who come to visit their loved ones? Old cemeteries, for me, are peaceful and beautiful for those visiting friends or family or just for those of us who want to spend time reflecting on life, art, history, relationships, shadows, weather, maybe a quiet ghost or two, and the passage of time.

Beautiful sky blue doors on a crypt.

They look like a row of miniature churches.

A beautiful row of old trees.

The frightening and the beautiful side by side.

These moss covered graves were unmarked. But the green was still beautiful.

A cool bat done in metal. I think it was above the door of a crypt.

Sad beauty. I wonder what makes it blue - paint in or on the rock? A copper component making it like verdigris?

A close up

The cemetery was huge. There were wider "boulevards" like this one, smaller "streets", even narrow "alleys". The walkways were labeled and there were signposts at some of the intersections. Without a map you really just wandered and let serendipity direct you.

It looks like the perfect model of maternal love, yes? (or should I say - Oui?) But look at the word carved at the bottom - "Humanite". I assume that means "humanity". If only we treated each other as tenderly as this woman does the child in her arms. Isn't that who everyone, who "humanity" is, all of us collectively somebody's child.

I liked the serendipitous meandering but the others were more goal oriented. We each had a specific gravestone we wanted to find. I was willing to just wait until I stumbled upon the grave I wanted to visit, Oscar Wilde, but Jeff wanted to find Edith Piaf and Sam was determined to go directly to Jim Morrison's grave. He was sure Morrison's grave was in this area and he led us around in circles for a bit.

I just let everyone get ahead (since they were developing a pattern of showing up back behind me again if I dawdled long enough) and took more photos. This was a cool cross and snake.

The pyramid topped crypt was an odd addition.

You have to wonder whether the intent was to frighten or comfort here. I think I prefer the beautiful angels or even the silent skulls.

Another beautiful crypt. Most of them were family crypts with the name above the door.

Close up again.

Eventually a couple on their way out of the cemetery gifted us with their map. We hadn't thought to buy one. Sam is infamous for being the kid that wouldn't read the directions, but even he was tired enough of going around in circles to give the map a whirl instead. Will the map finally lead him to his goal, Morrison's grave? Stay tuned for Part Two......

In the meantime, one of my Sweet and Sinister Swap boxes (I ended up with two partners) arrived this afternoon! Photos at Laume's Studio.


Blogger Walker Lady said...

My eyes and computer won't let me make out what the 43 year old man was holding in his hand, in that photo of the body reaching out from the tombstone. Do you recall?

That was eerie. And such a sense of humor perhaps? I sometimes wonder if people who lived in the 1800's or earlier had more of a sense of humor than we give them credit for?

3:47 AM  
Blogger Kirsty said...

Great pix. I just felt a fist to my heart when I saw the statue that was weeping with her eyes hidden. That moved me immeasurably. Like Sherri, I was ooked out by the statue coming out of the stone. I thought it was the person saying, "NO NO! my life cannot be over so soon...."

9:45 AM  
Blogger Laume said...

Walkerlady, I went back and looked at the largest version of the photo and see that it's a rose in his hand. Y'know, I didn't even realize until you asked that he was holding anything! I thought he was just pushing up the stone. Kirsty, I was creeped out by that statue as well. I didn't want to say so in the body of the post, it seemed a bit disrespectful, but it was a jarring image. I think it might have affected me differently if I'd realized he was holding a rose, it has a different symbolism. I might have to Google this guy and see what the larger story is on him.

10:45 AM  
Blogger suesueb said...

such beautiful, and haunting, photos. down here in the south our cemeteries are above ground too. i've always wanted to visit the ones in new orleans but was too scared (of the muggers, not the ghosts!). can't wait for more photos.

8:54 AM  
Blogger Linda said...

amazing and haunting

6:13 PM  
Anonymous susanna said...

Oh WOW! That's my kind of tour! So many interestng monuments. I especially like that bat.

6:20 PM  
Blogger Jana said...

Beautiful photos. I love taking photos of cemeteries also. Last November we were eating dinner and talking to the kids about what they wanted for Christmas. My daughter says she wants a digital camera. I said I bet Santa could get one of those. So she announces, Hey Jack (little brother), do you want to go to the cemetery and take photos with me? He of course yells YES! My husband said he hopes she doesn't say that in public, someone might think we are a weird family, lol.

7:53 AM  

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