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Père Lachaise is organized on a grid plan, not unlike a small town or city, with iron signs that show street (avenue or chemin) and block (division).
Some of the graves, such as that of the composer and pianist Frédéric Chopin, are in good repair and attract floral tributes from visitors.
Others, like this crumbling tomb, are neglected or forgotten. (That isn't necessarily a bad thing, since broken sarcophagi offer shelter for stray cats.)
Bad-boy rock star Jim Morrison of The Doors continues to draw fans, even in death. His unprepossessing tomb is both a tourist attraction and a magnet for graffiti.
Morrison's grave has been vandalized several times, and a memorial bust was stolen in 1988. (It's just as well that his neighbors are dead, or they'd be complaining about the constant stream of groupies and gawkers.)
Another celebrity resident of Père Lachaise, the singer Édith Piaf, draws even bigger crowds than Jim Morrison--including French visitors who show up in tour buses.
Mlle Piaf, a.k.a. "The Little Sparrow," died in 1963. Her funeral procession drew tens of thousands of mourners, and her burial ceremony at Père Lachaise was attended by more than 100,000 fans.
The tomb of Félix Faure (left) has a special fascination for students of political prurience: Faure, who was president of the French Republic from 1895 until his death in 1899, collapsed in the arms (or possibly the mouth) of his mistress during sex.
Not all of Père Lachaise's residents are decomposing naturally: A crematorium and columbarium cater to guests who prefer "ashes to ashes" over "dust to dust."
Père Lachaise caters more to the dead than to the living, and its WCs are less elegant than many of the family tombs. These outdoor toilets near the main entrance are dark and a little creepy inside. (The water in the sink on the right side of the building wasn't turned on when we visited the cemetery in late May.)
Back to: Père Lachaise Cemetery - Introduction
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