My Travel Book - Paris - Graveyards can be fun... Well, not really (Part II)

Like I said in my last blog entry, it was a beautiful autumn day in Paris. I chose to go take pictures in the most ancient part of the Montparnasse Cemetery.

It's a very small replica of my beloved Père Lachaise. And graves are so close to one another that you have to be very careful not to step on one of them.

Of course, dogs are not allowed - except at night where the graveyard is watched over by keepers with dogs. I'm not kidding. It's quite new. A few years ago, the graveyards were home to lots of feral cats.

Actually, those two graveyards are "fun" because they are so different from other cemeteries. They belong to another time, so different and so remote from our modern concerns. Nowadays, the graves are quite plain and most people chose to be cremated anyway.

During the XIXth century, poor people (at least in Paris) ended more or less in a communal grave.
Rich and/or famous people were buried in graves that had to show who they were and what they had done. Their graves were a mere continuation of their lives. They loved sculptures, expensive gravestones topped by their busts, especially men. They flaunted their decorations (in bronze, of course). Everything was made to last a long time.

This is why sometimes I can't help smiling because sometimes it just gets to be too much. Too much for me, that's for sure. Too much for our century, good point too.

A few examples:
This man probably had a lot of fun in life. At least that's what one hopes. It'd be so silly to smile after your death.

This one was a banker. Have you ever watched Mary Poppins?

No bust over this grave. This shows that he was a fireman in Paris, probably a hero since he's buried in this section. Notice that the Paris council is really taking good care of the graves even though most of the dead there no longer have family members alive in our XXIst century.
They loved flowers to distraction. Ceramics and bronze of course. The bay leaves show that the dead had been awarded decorations during their lifetime.

I'm so used to those ancient graves that sometimes I do not really care. One bay leaf, two bay leaves, one hundred bay leaves... One bust, two busts, two hundred busts...

I have to admit I was quite taken aback when I walked straight to this grave...
At first, I have to admit I started giggling. A stately (marble) bed. Flower (bronze) pots. And this couple...

She's lying down, half asleep while he's been reading to her something he just wrote in his journal.

And then a miracle happened. I fell in love with them. Mr and Mrs Charles Pigeon are a darling couple, I have to admit. But I still had a hard time imagining them planning their last bed with some artist. 'I'll fall asleep, dear. You know how sleepy I get at night.'
'Go to sleep, dear. I'll keep on writing and reading to you until you close your sweet eyes. I'll be watching over you as I have always done.'
Can it be real? Really, really true... Or is this grave the image they wanted to leave to posterity? Their posterity is not buried with them anyway. Who can move this bed to make room below for the new coffins. Maybe their grave was their posterity.

Allright, I admit I had to stifle a good laugh in front of this one. Someone was probably afraid the person buried there would try to escape. Hence the rock! The name is not French so I'll never know whether it was a man or a woman. Does it matter?

I noticed from quite far away a darling flower layout. Very strange and weird and so feminine.
It's quite new. Actually it's been made for two women. The first one died in 2001. The mother. Her daughter's name is already on the grave with her year of birth and half of the date of her death, of course since she's still alive.

This is the most incredible grave I've ever seen. And believe me, I've been roaming graveyards for the past two years. It is so sweet that it becomes a little bit laughable. It's supposed to be a parchment with their names and loving words but it ends up looking a lot like vanilla icing.

And then there is a cherry on the cake:

They didn't write the cat's name. He's sure having fun catching the rose seal. He's having so much fun that he did not even notice the wonderful butterfly stuck in the marble... in perpetuity.
I don't know what deeply disturbed me there. Probably the daughter's 'half planned' date of death on her mother's grave. Maybe the cat? Spooky. really spooky.

So spooky that I was really glad to go back to reality. Is it possible to go back to real life in a graveyard? Yes. Well, in a way.

So simple and so moving. The kind of grave you find in every graveyard in France... a human grave.

*Good Night, and Good Luck*

1 comment:

Myrna said...

Wow! I loved these pictures. So interesting.