Nature Provides A Much Needed Balm

April 12, 2021 by Carolyn Campbell

Spring has sprung! Another season is upon us as we navigate the possibility of travel in 2021. To enliven this seasonal experience, though virtual, I have selected images taken on a trip to Père-Lachaise in spring of 2018 proving that nature provides a much needed balm after a long, stay-at-home winter.

No cemetery offers a more rewarding experience or is more historically significant than Père-Lachaise in the far eastern section of Paris—one of the most idyllic places – a forest, really. With 5,000 trees along its winding paths, it’s the largest public green space in the city. In the fall, it is a festival of color with the sounds of songbirds overhead. In spring, however, chestnut blossoms carpeting the grounds (and visitors) and filling the air with a sweet fragrance is an indescribable experience. A celebration of nature’s awakening from its winter slumber. It brings to mind a favorite quote by Honoré de Balzac who is buried there, “I seldom go out, but when I feel myself flagging I go out and cheer myself up in Père-Lachaise…while seeking out the dead I see nothing but the living.” 

Sweet-smelling pink and white chestnut blossoms carpet the cemetery.

Fall is the prime season to take photographs, imo; the yellow and orange leaves sharply contrasting with solemn gray tombs and iron railings, plus the unique Paris light filtering through latticed trees above. Nonetheless, when I made the trip to Paris one spring, to my delight there were breathtaking flower beds planted by the cemetery’s gardeners, as well as irises and daffodils blooming at well-tended grave sites. In addition, there was the lush foliage from the trees on the 107-acre site, including acacia, maple, beech, ash, lemon and chestnut. Père-Lachaise is, after all, the foremost garden-style cemetery in the world and was the model for all European and American cemeteries from the 19th century onward.

No previous architect or landscape designer had been assigned such a vast and unprecedented undertaking— the first proper burial area for individual grave sites to be created outside of a churchyard. In conceiving the cemetery’s design, the landscape architect Alexandre Brongniart maintained the garden-like setting of the former country retreat of The Sun King, Louis XIV’s confessor, Father LaChaise.

The following is a visual stroll for your viewing pleasure. Breathe…

All photos ©Carolyn Campbell  

GPS Tour App in French and English Celebrates the World’s Most Famous Cemetery and its Iconic Residents

October 31, 2020 by Carolyn Campbell

“I seldom go out, but when I feel myself flagging, I go out and cheer myself up in Père Lachaise…while seeking out the dead I see nothing but the living.”

— Honoré de Balzac, Père-Lachaise resident

What did I do with my lockdown time during COVID-19? I completed and launched the perfect travel guide for All Souls’ Day (November 2) with app developer STQRY. We have just released the City of Immortals GPS Tour App of the famed Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris for Apple and Google devices in French and English.

Based on my bestselling book, City of Immortals: Père-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, the app (priced at $2.99 USD) provides visitation and transportation details, the general history of the cemetery, and background on the designs of the 19th-century funerary art and architecture to be found there. In addition, it features images, biographies, and navigation details to the gravesites of the same 84 cultural icons featured in the book, which celebrates this legendary necropolis that draws millions of tourists to the City of Light each year. (more…)

May 21 Marks the 215th Anniversary of Père-Lachaise Cemetery

May 17, 2019 by Carolyn Campbell

The cemetery’s main entrance in 1817

I am in a celebratory mood. There are many significant City of Immortals benchmarks this month. First and foremost is the 215th anniversary of the founding of Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, which occurred on May 21, 1804. It all began with the eighteenth-century Parisian engineers who had overlooked one major question in their urban design scheme—what to do with the ever-increasing population of the dead? In 1799 a competition was announced under direction from Napolèon to create new cemeteries on the outskirts of Paris.

The cemetery entrance circa 1840.

The winner of the largest commission, the cimetière de l’Est (located at Mont-Louis in the east), was architect, urban planner, and landscape designer Alexandre-Thèodore Brongniart—the first architect ever to receive such an unprecedented project.

Brongniart’s designs for the cemetery’s original 16 acres


New Bas-Relief Sculpture Discovery

February 13, 2019 by Carolyn Campbell

In all the decades I have been visiting Père-Lachaise seeing this memorial in the public park, Square Samuel de Champlain during my visit in December was a first for me. Due to heavy rain and the fear by the administrators of falling tree branches, I was asked to quickly exit the Porte Gambetta entrance of the cemetery, so I decided to take a leisurely stroll down to Boulevard Ménilmontant.

Midway down a steep incline in the park, I was startled by a dramatic and moving sculpture by Paul Moreau-Vauthier (1871 – 1936) who is buried in Division 14. The sculpture depicts the final moments of one-hundred and forty-seven fédérés, combatants of the Paris Commune who were lined up against the Mur des Fédérés (the real wall is in Division 76 – designated with a large plaque) and summarily executed, and whose bodies were dumped into a mass grave directly in front of the wall. In this artwork, a robed female figure with arms outstretched is surrounded by the ghost-like figures of the fallen Communards.

The Association of the Friends of the Paris Commune has long explained that the much-photographed bas-relief sculpture is not the famous Communards’ Wall – nor is it accepted as a symbol of remembrance for the Commune members who fell.

In consulting a colleague and fellow taphophile Steve Soper, he thought that the idea was to include this sculpture in Division 76 but too many political issues were at stake so it was eventually placed outside and out of the way — where it could do little harm to any one group or organization.

Review from Shana Nys Dambrot,
Arts Editor of LA Weekly

July 18, 2018 by Carolyn Campbell

Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris — Photo by Carolyn Campbell

Two French Landmarks Get Some Love From U.S. Fans

Shana Nys Dambrot | July 13, 2018 | 10:35am

Americans certainly aren’t the only ones with a bit of a thing for Paris. Benjamin Franklin was born there, and from their gift of the Statue of Liberty, to our gifts of the Lost Generation and Jerry Lewis, to their love of American pop art, and countless moments of literature, art, music and cinema—we seem to love it there as much as anyone (except maybe actual Parisians).

Saint-Germain-des-Près, Paris
Photo © Agence Pierre-Antoine Gatier — P. Voisin