All good things come to an end, but some are lucky enough to get a plum plot in a Parisian cemetery when that end arrives. In this dispatch of photos from 1995-6 and 2005, the Monkey pays his respects Paris-style.
At one of Paris’s most exclusive cemeteries, Pêre Lachaise, the Monkey pays his respects to Fredric Chopin, the French composer. Also entombed at the cemetery are such notables as actress Sarah Bernhardt; painters Gustave Caillebotte, Amedeo Modigliani, Eugène Delacroix, Camille Pissarro, and Georges Seurat; playwright and satirist Molière; actor and singer Yves Montand; singers Jim Morrison and Edith Piaf; and writers Marcel Proust and Oscar Wilde. Were he not immortal, it would be the Monkey’s desire to spend eternity at Pêre Lachaise.
Across town in Montparnasse Cemetery, the Monkey pays his respects to another beloved French musician, the inimitable Serge Gainsbourg (1928-1991). His musical stylings ranged from jazzy pop to funky rock and many others, including a reggae cover of La Marseillaise (the French national anthem) and the downright orgasmic duet “Je t’aime… moi non plus” (with your pick of female leads, Brigitte Bardot or Jane Birkin).
Renowned comrades in eternal rest at Montparnasse Cemetery include artists Man Ray and Constantin Brancusi, composer Camille Saint-Saëns, film director Eric Rohmer, singer Jean Sablon, and writers Samuel Beckett, Julio Cortázar, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Susan Sontag.
The Monkey stops by the Panthéon in Paris’s Latin Quarter. Based in part on the Roman structure that shares its name, this grand neoclassical pile was designed by Jacques-German Soufflot and constructed in the mid 18th Century. The Pantheon began as a church but was later converted to a mausoleum for the the most revered of France’s citizens (not far away, Les Invalides performs a similar function for the country’s military greats). Here, literary giants such as Voltaire, Victor Hugo, and Alexandre Dumas join scientists Louis Pasteur and Marie Curie, philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, architect of European unity Jean Monnet, and select other public figures in one of the most exclusive clubs in the world.
By the end of the 18th Century, Parisian church cemeteries were reaching their full capacity. The ground in some cemeteries had risen by eight feet, and the sanitary conditions nearby were worsening, the foremost complaint being an asphyxiating stench. The solution? The disinterment of the remains from all the parish cemeteries and their relocation to a mass ossuary. Dating from the 12th Century, Paris had a system of tunnels and galleries linking strategic sites and today extending for some 300 kilometers (entirely independent of the Metro system). The ossuaries occupy only a small part of the whole system. Christened in 1786, the ossuaries received transferred remains well into the 19th Century. A section is open for visits. Here, the Monkey meets past Parisians.
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