My girlfriend Emma sprang a surprise on me recently. She bought tickets for us to see The Fields of the Nephlim live. Naturally, I was thrilled. She had another surprise in store, the concert was at La Trabendo … in Paris! Oh my god, WOW! She’d actually bought them before the 13th November attacks but kept quiet - she’s good at surprises. We’re logical people, so we knew we were safe - the probability of anything happening was so low. When we arrived, there were indeed armed police and soldiers everywhere - it was very safe.
Unfortunately the Nephlim cancelled at the last minute. While Emma could claim back her tickets, there was the flight and hotel booked - not so easily cancelled. We decided to go anyway. So, what was two Goths (ok, one ‘Goth’ and one ‘Alternative’) to do in Paris? Hang around with dead people, of course! Joking aside, amongst the other sites of Paris, we went to pay our respects at Pere Lachaise Cemetery.
Père Lachaise Cemetery opened in 1804. Napoleon famously declared at the time that “Every citizen has the right to be buried regardless of race or religion.” Many famous people are buried at Pere Lachaise. Here’s a few of the ones we visited.
Two things struck me about the place. Every grave was very individualistic, making the overall effect quite random looking - quite different from the military cemeteries I’ve visited. Then there was the sense of slow decay. Some tombs had managed well the passage of time while others had lost their engravings. Some were well cared for while others forgotten.
There are many military men buried here too. Erwan Bergot was a hero of the French Paratroops who was at Dien Ben Phu and wrote many military books. I found his grave by accident.
Joachim Murat (Marshal of France and flamboyant king of Naples) has a cenotaph at Pere Lachaise, but is not actually buried here.
Louis-Gabriel Suchet was one of Napoleon’s greatest Marshals, one of the few commanders who survived the Spanish campaing with his reputation intact.
General Foy was another of Napoleon’s commanders, who was wounded no less than 15 times during the Naploeonic War campaigns and commanded the 9th division in the 100 days campaign.
While not on your average tourist’s itinerary, it was a fascinating visit and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in history who has the time.