A Tale of Love & Tragedy: Abelard & Heloise at Père Lachaise

Discover the poignant story behind the star-crossed lovers buried together

Père Lachaise Cemetery is the resting place of many well-known artists, musicians, writers, and historical personalities, and it is located in the picturesque hills of the 20th arrondissement in east Paris.

Travelers from all over the world come here to pay their respects to the graves of Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, and Frédéric Chopin, among many others whose bodies rest in this peaceful cemetery.

The 110-acre cemetery, which opened in 1804 on the outskirts of Paris, features graves with everything from modest headstones to grandiose mausoleums and burial chambers. Père Lachaise is a cemetery that, despite its sombre surroundings, feels more like an English garden than a cemetery because of its winding, tree-lined, cobblestone paths.

Père Lachaise, like most of Paris’s attractions, is best reached by subway. Get off at Philippe Auguste (not Père Lachaise) on the subway. The main entrance is only a minute’s walk away.

The Père Lachaise Cemetery was named after Father François d’Aix de La Chaise, King Louis XIV’s confessor. It is the most important and well-known cemetery in Paris. It covers an area of 44 hectares in Paris’s 20th arrondissement and features 70,000 graves.

View of Père Lachaise
View of Père Lachaise

The cemetery combines elements of an American graveyard with an English park. There are examples of every type of funeral architecture imaginable, including Gothic tombs, Haussmannian crypts, ancient mausoleums, etc.

Honoré de Balzac, Guillaume Apollinaire, Frédéric Chopin, Colette, Jean-François Champollion, Jean de La Fontaine, Molière, Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Camille Pissarro, and Oscar Wilde are among the notable people whose graves can be seen from the green paths.

History of Père Lachaise Cemetery

By the late 18th century, Paris’s inner city cemeteries were nearly at capacity; therefore, the city made an attempt to establish bigger cemeteries on the outskirts of the city. Napoleon I ordered the establishment of Père Lachaise Cemetery in 1804.

Père François de la Chaise, Louis XIV’s confessor and a resident of the area in the 17th century is the inspiration for the site’s name. Père Lachaise was founded in 1801, but just a few persons were buried there at first because Parisians considered it too far outside of the city.

Within a year of its construction, the cemetery had already attracted the remains of the famed French playwright Molière and the poet Jean de La Fontaine. Père Lachaise gained a bit of fame as a result of this, but it never caught on with the public.

History of Père Lachaise Cemetery
History of Père Lachaise Cemetery

It didn’t get much attention until 1817 when Josephine Bonaparte had the bodies of Abelard and Heloise transferred to the Père Lachaise and buried together. The number of burials increased from a handful to 33,000 within a few years after Abelard and Heloise were buried close to the tomb’s entrance.

Highlights of Père Lachaise Cemetery

This vast park, with both formal landscaping and semi-wild parts, is home to a remarkable plant collection that is sure to fascinate visitors of all ages and backgrounds.

There are over 5,000 trees in the cemetery, including a hundred-year-old maple tree that stands 12 meters tall, a chestnut tree that has a circumference of 3.45 meters and has been there for 100 years, and some more exotic species, such as a smoke bush, a gutta-percha tree, and two gingko biloba maidenhair trees.

The cemetery is made more aesthetically pleasing by a number of sculptures, which are themselves exceptional examples of funeral art. There are several elaborate figures, such as a husband and wife who have been reunited for all time, a grieving widow, a soldier in the heat of combat, and a man holding his wife’s head, among the 70,000 graves in Père-Lachaise.

Because of its expansive layout, the cemetery offers something fresh with each visit. As you meander through the neat passageways, you are bound to find some cool spots to rest from the sun.

Highlights of Père Lachaise Cemetery
Highlights of Père Lachaise Cemetery

Of various periods of the year, the atmosphere of the Père-Lachaise cemetery is rather varied. It’s lovely in the spring, vibrant in the fall, and a little mysterious when covered with snow in the winter. Amateur photographers will appreciate the many changes that occur there throughout the year.

Famous people whose bodies are graved in Père Lachaise Cemetery

It would be hard to name all of the famous people buried in Père Lachaise. However, some of the most popular are:

The graves of Abelard and Heloise are a big reason why so many people choose Père Lachaise as their ultimate resting place. One of the most well-known and sad love stories from the Middle Ages revolves around these star-crossed lovers. In the 12th century, Abelard was a prominent French philosopher.

In order to help his niece Heloise, a nobleman employed Abelard, who was more than 20 years younger than she was, and they fell in love. The love between Abelard and Heloise was broken up when her uncle found out about them.

Despite being separated in life, the couple’s claimed remains now lie next to one another in Père Lachaise and continued to write one another adorable love letters throughout their lives.

Frédéric Chopin (Polish-born pianist and composer) lived in Paris for most of his adult life. His corpse was laid to rest in Père Lachaise after his death at Place Vendôme. The monument of Polish composer Frédéric Chopin is made of white marble and has a figure of Euterpe, the Greek muse of music, crying over a broken instrument and surrounded by beautiful flowers.

Famous people whose bodies are graved in Père Lachaise Cemetery
Famous people whose bodies are graved in Père Lachaise Cemetery

With the release of “La Vie en rose” and “Non, je ne regrette rient” in the middle of the 20th century, Édith Piaf became one of the most famous French singers of all time. After her death in 1963, Piaf was laid to rest in a plot at Père Lachaise bearing the inscription “Famille Gassion – Piaf.”

Oscar Wilde, an Irish author and playwright, passed away in Paris in the year 1900. His monument, which is adorned with a gilded angel, stands out among the others in the cemetery.

Jim Morrison, lead vocalist of The Doors, was only 27 when he died in Paris after an apparent drug overdose in 1971. Once, a stone bust of him stood at his tomb at Père Lachaise, but today, just a flat stone bearing the Greek words “according to his own daemon” remains.


Père Lachaise, the largest park in Paris and cemetery at the same time, is an unusual tourist destination yet well worth seeing on a trip to the French city. The exact number of persons who are buried here is unknown; however, assumptions place it anywhere from 300,000 to 1,000,000. Several well-known people have been laid to rest there for all time.

Père Lachaise, France
Père Lachaise, France

The Père-Lachaise Cemetery and Park is a cemetery and park in the northeastern section of Paris, France. Its official name is the Cimetiere de l’Est (“Cemetery of the East”). It is the largest park and cemetery in Paris, covering an area of around 110 acres (44.5 hectares) and including more than 5,000 trees.

Related Articles

Back to top button