The Montmartre Cemetery was opened in 1825. Like the two larger Parisian cemeteries, Père Lachaise (1804) in the east and Montparnasse (1824) in the South, it was located just outside the Paris Farmers-General Wall after laws were passed banning the burying of corpses within the city.
The cemetery was laid out in an abandoned gypsum quarry that had been used as a mass grave for the bodies of the Swiss Guards killed when the Tuileries Palace was stormed in 1792. Its official name is Cimitière du Nord.
Philippe Buonarroti (1761-1837), the Italian revolutionary who resurrected Babeuf’s communist and insurrectionist politics in France from 1830 onwards, is buried here.
This is also where on May 23 1871 Louise Michel sheltered behind the tombstone of Henri Murger as the Versaillais troops shelled the Communards. From there she made her way to top of the Montmartre Hill, to the National Guard post at the corner of the old Rue des Rosiers and Rue de la Bonne, now 36 rue du Chevalier de la Barre, to exchange herself for her mother as a prisoner.
Émile Zola (1840-1902) was one of the many other radicals who was buried in Montmartre Cemetery. His, however, was, only a temporary burial. Six years later his remains were moved to the Panthéon. During the ceremony, Alfred Dreyfus (who had been pardoned two years earlier) was shot twice and wounded in the arm by a nationalist who was later acquitted on the grounds that it was ‘a natural nationalist act’.
His wonderful art nouveau tomb designed by Frantz Jourdain and sculpted by one of Zola’s oldest friends, Philippe Solari, can still be seen near the entrance to the cemetery.