Père Lachaise Cemetery

Arrondissement 20

East Cemetery

Opened in 1804 this world famous cemetery gets its name from Louis XIV’s Jesuit priest confessor from 1675 to 1709, François d’Aix de La Chaize. This was the period when the Sun King, having decided that anyone who was not a Catholic was the ‘enemy within’, revoked the 1598 Edict of Nantes that had tolerated protestants. While discriminatory measures took off from 1661, persecutions intensified from 1679 leading up to the 1685 revocation in the Edict of Fontainebleau. One per cent of the population, some 200,000 Huguenots were then forced out of France.

The Jesuits bought the land on the Mont-aux-Vignes hill to the North-East of Paris in the 16th century. After the young King Louis XIV had spent a few hours there the hill was renamed the Mont-Louis, and this was where Louis’ confessor, Father La Chaise, lived and died.

In 1780, finally, all cemeteries within the city walls were closed. As Consul Napoleon decreed that cemeteries should be open to all faiths and to the poor as well as the rich. In 1803 the land on the hill was acquired by the Prefect of the Seine department and the design of the cemetery entrusted to Alexandre-Theodore Brongiart.

The Père La Chaise opened for its first burial on June 4 1804. That year there were only 13 tombs. In 1815 still only 2,000. In 1830 there were 33,000 and after several expansions some 70,000 in 2014.