Montparnasse Cemetery

Arrondissement 14

3 Boulevard Edgar Quinet

Originally called ‘the Southern Cemetery’ it was opened in 1824 as one of four that made up a new network of burial places outside the original walled city centre: Passy (west), Montmartre (north) and Père-Lachaise (east).

It was developed on the private burial plot of the ‘Brothers of Charity’ religious order (now called St-Jean-de-Dieu Hospital Order) and on three local farms. Soon it stimulated a local monument statutory industry, among whom was Antoine Bourdelle, Jules Dalou‘s studio neighbour. Dalou was himself buried here, having famously sculpted the Père-Lachaise tombs of Victor Noir and Auguste Blanqui.

Around 35,000 people are now buried there, and with them memories of those who struggled for a better world.

Among these is a broken column, commemorating the four sergeants of La Rochelle, Jean-François Bories, Charles Goubin, Jean Pommier and Charles Raoulx guillotined on September 21 1822 in the Place de Grève outside the Hotel de Ville for being members of the Carbonari and plotting to overthrow Louis XVIII.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the pivotal figure of French socialism in the mid-19th century, is buried here.

Denis Dussoubs has a commemorative tomb in the cemetery. He was shot while trying to persuade troops to remain faithful to the Second Republic and to stop Louis-Napoleon’s coup d’État  that had taken place two days earlier on December 2 1851. His brother, Gaston, a deputy was unwell, and asked him to go to speak to the troops in his place.

Pierre Leroux, the first to use the word ‘Socialism’ was buried there shortly after the declaration of the Paris Commune in April 1871.

Alfred Dreyfus, against whom such an anti-Semetic injustice was done in the 1894 that France became politically divided in ways that shaped its 20th century history.

Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre are buried next to each other.

The cemetery also includes two monuments: one to those killed in the Franco-German war (1870-1871) sieges of Paris and Strasbourg; the other to the Communards killed there during the bloody week of May 21-28 1871 and afterwards.

During the retreat from the cemetery Jean Allemane prevented Joseph Piazza from being shot by his own men, by locking him up in the 5th arrondissement’s town hall next to the Pantheon. Sadly, the Communards forgot to release him and he was killed by the Versaillais. The executions and quick burials in the cemetery finally ended only on June 19 1871.

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