I Love Cemeteries… especially French Cemeteries…

Do you love cemeteries as much as I do ???

With Halloween coming up, what better time than now to discuss cemeteries!

I love cemeteries…  Is that strange ? It’s the everyday history of everyday lives in everyday places…  I love French cemeteries especially because of the age of the cemeteries, the beauty of the architecture and adornments, and the peacefulness of the surroundings…

I love French Cemeteries

I particularly love to wander the gravel paths reading gravestones and pondering the occupant’s lives. Tombstones in France can tell you so much about a person’s life (Did they live a long life?  Were they married?  How did they die?  Who did they leave behind?). So many hopes and dreams that lie buried. “A warm touch upon cold hard stone”… Perhaps in some way our visits brings solace to those buried there.

People have been honoring their dead since ancient times. The Great Pyramids of Egypt are an amazing example of the importance we put into honoring our deceased. I’ve personally had an inherent fascination for cemeteries and have been visiting and dragging along unsuspecting folks for years.  I’ve never found cemeteries to be creepy or morbid – instead I find them emotional and moving.  The echoes of time reverberate throughout…

One of the most famous and beautiful French cemeteries is in the city of Paris – the Père Lachaise cemetery created in 1804. There you will find many famous buried people such as Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Edith Piaf, and Jim Morrison. Just in case you were wondering, there is a waiting list to be buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery and you must be French or have died while living in Paris to be buried there.

If you are out visiting cemeteries, please don’t forget your “Graveyard Etiquette” (maybe the occupants don’t mind anymore but the families and grounds people do).

  • Observe all posted rules.
  • Stay out of cemeteries after dark.
  • Keep your speed on cemetery roads to posted limits. Turn off your car stereo.
  • Keep a respectful silence. Speak to your companions in a low tone of voice. Be friendly and courteous to all that you meet.
  • Do not move or remove anything from a grave. Leave no evidence of your visit.
  • Do not use cemeteries as a picnic spot, campground, or lover’s lane.
  • Do not stand on fragile stones as your weight may crack or snap the stone.
  • Do not apply shaving cream to tombstone for rubbings as the chemicals damage the stone.
  • Photographing cemeteries or mourners is a taboo in certain cultures.

So is it odd that I love cemeteries???  Apparently not so odd…  There is actually even a word for those that like cemeteries – “Taphophile”- also known as “Tombstone tourists”, “Cemetery Enthusiasts”, “Grave Hunters” or “Gravers” depending on the exact area of interest. Essentially, Taphophile’s have a fascination for the history, architecture, ornamentation, epitaphs sayings, photography, and famous tombs in cemeteries. Believe it or not, some people plan vacations around visiting cemeteries, and there are even tour operators specializing in cemetery visits.

Personally I prefer visiting cemeteries in person, but since Halloween is coming up and you might be looking for something creepy to zing up your Halloween evening, here are a few virtual resources:

When I depart the living, I’m hoping for one of those spectacular architectural tombs on a plot overlooking a peaceful green valley.

Happy Travels,

-Girl Gone Gallic

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  10 comments for “I Love Cemeteries… especially French Cemeteries…

  1. November 3, 2015 at 2:27 am

    So I am a “Taphophile” … .although in truth I have visited more English cemeteries and graveyards than French. I enjoy genealogy so my research took me to many a resting place of my ancestors … but none, as yet, in France. I do love our local church cemetery here in Normandy and of course we also have all the WW2 cemeteries which make for a very poignant visit. #AllAboutFrance

    • November 5, 2015 at 11:14 am

      LOL ! Yes you are, and I didn’t realize there were so many of us out there 🙂 I should start a Taphophile support group, I get the strangest looks sometimes when I suggest we stop at a promising looking cemetary (for me that means with lots of old tombstones in a beautiful setting). I also love genealogy, it’s a great way to delve into history.

    • November 9, 2015 at 4:12 pm

      The WW2 war cemeteries are really emotional, especially when you see severam family members together. It must be so hard for those left behind, a sacrifice we can never forget.

  2. October 21, 2015 at 10:18 am

    Have you ever been to Highgate cemetery in London? It’s wonderful. Karl Marx is buried there. I must say I agree with Bobleponge about war cemeteries, they take it to another level. Thanksk for linking up to #AllAboutFrance

    • October 22, 2015 at 1:25 am

      I haven’t actually spent much time in London, just a hop over there last Christmas to do some shopping! I will have to add that to my (extremely long) list of things to do…thanks for the suggestion. Even more poignant than the war cemetaries are the scattered war memorials around Provence and in Paris. There is a war memorial near my home where four members of the local resistance were executed by the Gestapo before being thrown into the nearby canal. We must not forget, or let it happen ever again.

  3. October 7, 2015 at 4:08 am

    Pere Lachaise and the Montparnasse cemeteries are both good, have wandered round them both often, but for making my eyes water there is nothing better/worse than the various military cemeteries I’ve been lucky enough to visit around the world. Ypres is a Taphophiles paradise, should you ever find yourself that way, but the most moving one I’ve ever visited is the one in Oosterbekk in Holland, near Arnhem. To see two twin brothers lying next to each other reduced me to a blubbering heap.

  4. November 25, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    I’ve got a thing for cemeteries too! Absolutely loved wandering around Père Lachaise. It’s one of those places in Paris, where’s it always quite and peaceful 🙂

    • November 25, 2014 at 5:11 pm

      I was glad to discover I am actually not the only one out there who likes cemeteries ! Père Lachaise is definitely a favorite, but I really also love the “Montparnasse Cemetery” also in Paris, and also where you will find more great architecture and more notable people of interest. But really, even the tiniest cemeteries are worthy of a visit for their poignant history.

  5. October 27, 2014 at 11:05 am

    I too share your fascination. Looking at old tombs and reading epiphanies etched in stone gives momentary “life” in the form of a simple thought, that would not otherwise occur for unknown people who passed so long ago that even their relatives are long gone. Years ago I had to write an essay about any photographer and although I don’t recall the name, I do remember choosing a man who had done a series of captivating black and whites in cemetaries located in new Orleans. Happy Halloween!

    • October 28, 2014 at 1:34 am

      Cemeteries are poignant depositories of everyday lives, you can feel the reverberation of those lives… I think that is the draw. I have enough cemetery photos to publish my own book !

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