Paris. It’s been a while since I’ve been here. It’s nice being back, although it seems that nothing has changed here all that much, but that perhaps I’ve changed more than I thought since the last I was here. I can barely remember the person who first explored this city and its cemeteries back in 2006. For this trip I decided to stay in Montmartre, but arrived too early to check into my hotel room, so I ended up going for a walk, which led me, surprise surprise, to Montmartre Cemetery. Being in such a famous tourist area, it is a somewhat less-famous second cousin the Paris’ more well-known cemetery, Pere Lachaise. Not that it’s any slouch, it’s home to many famous people, such as Alexandre Dumas, Edgar Degas, Emile Zola, and many more. The original location was a gypsum quarry, which explains why it’s almost below ground (in fact, it’s name was once the Cemetery-below-Montmartre). It has a bit of a sad history, the quarries were used for mass graves during the French Revolution, but it evolved to become the “north” cemetery when it was decided to build 4 large cemeteries outside of the city limits.
I like Montmartre. It’s a bit like the neighbourhood that it’s in, full of stairs to take you up and down the various sections. There are a lot of family tombs here, which I think is a feature of the Parisien cemeteries. Of course, being built during the monumental age of cemeteries, there are quite a number of interesting statues here too, although they tend to be scattered throughout the grounds. One of my favourites is right below the overpass that runs above the cemetery (thankfully they went with this option when building the road, rather than removing the cemetery as had been proposed). It’s a woman holding a posey of flowers, while above her is a relief of the deceased, who had obviously been a painter, as there is a painter’s palette beside him as well. I’m not sure why I like this statue so much, perhaps it has to do with it’s lonely location below the road, yet still beautiful all the same. In addition, there were certainly more instances of male statues beyond standard representations of the deceased – one was a larger-than-life full nude that left nothing to the imagination.
Montmartre is also a cemetery full of life, at least of the feline kind. There were lots of cats here, well-fed and clearly well-loved. I came across a number of tombs that had cat food and water laid out for them, and saw a woman feeding more cats as she tended to a tomb. They do seem friendly if they think you have food. There were also a lot of crows and magpies here, sitting picturesquely on tombs, yet whenever I tried to take a picture of one of them, they always flew away – I guess they don’t like cameras pointed at them any more than most people do.
Overall I found this a pretty quiet cemetery. Some tourists, some mourners, but by mid-afternoon I felt like I was the only one there. Like so many of the other bit cemeteries, there is something really calming and relaxing about walking amongst all the tombs, reading epitaphs, and pondering the meanings of certain symbols or statues meant to commemorate the deceased. Definitely one of my favourites.
Quality of Monuments: There are quite a number of interesting monuments, but the number of statues pales in comparison to the Italian cemeteries. Similarly, there are no grand monuments with multiple figures (which is true of all the Parisian cemeteries). There are not as many overtly religious sculptures here as compared to other cemeteries.
Cemetery Grounds: Quite extensive, it’s the third largest cemetery in Paris (after Pere Lachaise and Montparnasse). It’s slightly hilly, which gives it a nicer dynamic than most “flat” cemeteries. Lots of cats and birds here.
Visitors: Some tourists and some mourners were here when I visited in the afternoon. Overall however, this is a pretty quiet cemetery.
Photographer Notes: I’m unsure of tripod use here. Obviously, with tall, above-ground tombs, the light will change dramatically in certain areas depending on the time of day that you go.
Cemetery: Cimitiere de Montmartre
Location: 20 Avenue Rachel, Montmartre, Paris. The closest metro stops would be Blanche or Place du Clichy. It’s really not that far from anywhere within Montmartre.
Inaugurated: January 1st, 1825