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FAMOUS WOMEN AT MONTMARTRE CEMETERY
SINGERS MUSICIANS COMPOSERS REFORMERS
Melanie "Mel" Bonis (1858 - 1937) Composer
Lili Boulanger (1893 - 1918) Composer
Nadia Boulanger (1887 - 1979) Composer
Dalida (1933 - 1987) Songstress, Actress
Laure Cinti-Damoreau (1801 - 1863) Opera Singer
Maria Deraismes (1828 - 1894) Social Reformer, Feminist
Julie Dorus-Gras (1805 - 1896) Opera Singer
Carole Fredericks (1952 - 2001) Songstress
Fanny Heldy (1888 - 1973) Songstress
Celeste Alkan Meyer Marix (1811 - 1897) Musician
Monique Morelli (1923 - 1993) Songstress
Mignon Nevada (1886 - 1971) Opera Singer
Marie Recio (1814 - 1862) Songstress
Wikipedia.com - Montmarte Cemetery
ACTRESSES DANCERS PRODUCERS WRITERS
Simone Berriau (1896 - 1984) Actress, Producer
Fanny Cerrito (1817 - 1909) Ballerina
Vera Clouzot (1913 - 1960) Actress
Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786 - 1859) Actress, Poet
Lana Guity Marconi (1917 -1990) Actress
Hedvig Sophie Karstan (1783 - 1862) Ballerina
Anna Judic (1850 - 1911) Actress-Chanteuse
Margaret "Miss Bluebell" Kelly Leibovici (1910 - 2004) Dancer
Emma Livry (1824 - 1863) Ballerina
Mary Marquet (1895 - 1979) Actress
Jeanne "Musidora" Roques (1889 - 1957) Actress, Director
Harriet Smithson Marconi (1800 - 1854) Actress
Ludmilla Tcherina (1924 - 2004) Dancer, Actress
Louise "La Goulue" Weber (1866 - 1929) Can-Can Dancer
Wikipedia.com - Montmartre Cemetery
Pauline Viardot Garcia
(1821 - 1910)
Opera Singer Composer
Marie Duplessis Lady of the Camillias
(1824 - 1847)
(1777 - 1849)
Woman of Letters
The parish church of Saint Pierre of Montmartre was constructed in place of the abbey and church members were buried in the graveyard buried next to the church. Inside the walled and gated enclosure it is possible to see the grand domes of Sacre Coeur magestically towering above the abandoned tombs and dilapidated graves.
The cemetery is open one day a year. I am fortunate to be here on that day, October 31st, the eve of All Saints Day. Guards secure the entrance and keep a watchful eye on visitors. It is obvious to me the cemetery's occupants are still cherished by the parishioners even though their names are blotted out by lichen and no longer readable.
Clustered on butte Montmartre are three cemeteries. Two are associated with religious institutions, Saint Pierre and Saint Vincent, and the other, Montmartre, is a non-denominational public cemetery. Each one is very old and unique. Montmartre has a history of being a religious site since Roman and Christian times. A Roman temple to the god Mars was located on top of the hill overlooking Lutetia Parisorium since at least 200 AD. It was also the site of Saint Denis' beheading.
There are two stories about the name of the butte. Romans are said to have called it Mont Mars because a temple to Mars was built on the top. In the early third century conflict arose in the Romanized city of Paris when a bishop arrived trying to convert it's residents to Christianity. The legendary bishop, Denis, was beheaded on the hill for his activities. According to local stories he carried his head in his hands for five miles where he dropped it and died. Sainted by popular demand, a church was built on the spot and devoted Christians began calling it the hill of martyrs hence Montmartre in French.
On the very top of Montmartre, on the left side of the front of the Basilica of Sacre Coeur, is the parish church of Saint Pierre de Montmartre. The church site was originally the location of a Benedictine abbey built in 1147 AD. Benedictine nuns worshiped and lived here until the abbey was moved down the hill in 1680 AD.
Down the hill, on the Rue Saint Vincent, is the more modern cemetery of Saint Vincent. It is still possible to see the domes of the Basilica Sacre Coeur from this location. The cemetery is rather small and easily explored but the sloped hill can make it difficult to walk. Steps lead to two tiers of flat graves and tombs.
Opened in 1831 this cemetery can be a restful break from crowded Montmartre. There is a restroom next to the office. The cemetery is open weekly from 9 AM to 5 PM. No really famous women are buried here but there are many Parisian women interred here.
Even further down the butte is Montmartre Cemetery. It covers 25 acres of an old gypsum quarry which was used to make Plaster of Paris. When the cemeteries inside the city of Paris were closed and the remains of occupants moved to catacombs under the city, Montmartre Cemetery became a major burial ground outside of the city limits. You will find many famous people buried here. Sadly, it was also used as a mass burial site during the Revolution. Many other people, famous and not so famous, are buried here in that mass grave.
From personal experience I can tell you it is not acceptable to rest on a grave. On my first visit I delayed lunch longer than I should have. By the time I climbed the hill to the cemetery, went down the stairs to the cemetery entrance, and walked through the cemetery gates I was severely hungry and dehydrated. Dizzy and wobbly from exhaustion, hunger, and lack of water I plopped myself down on a cold, black marble tombstone. A guard from the office saw me and insisted I move on. Hunkering down in a nearby stairwell I devoured my picnic lunch. Feeling much better I emerged ready to explore this extraordinary place.
The cemetery is open weekly from 9 AM to 5 PM. If you arrive here and the cemetery is closed or you do not have enough time to explore, the bridge over the cemetery, on Rue Caulaincourt, will let you see it from above. Inside the cemetery there are restrooms next to the guard office.
A large map under the bridge lists the grave location of each famous person interred here. Quickly looking around I see an orderly progression of tombs on the street under the bridge. As I begin to walk around I realize finding a specific grave may not be as easy as I had originally thought. Perhaps I should have bought that cemetery guidebook after all?
Cemeteries in my home town are laid out in a grid pattern on flat ground with straight streets. In this cemetery the graves cascade up and down the hills and are jammed together so close that I feel the need to apologize to the occupants for my misplaced steps. Scrambling here and there I find myself lost and frustrated. There are many graves of famous women in this cemetery. Sadly, I have been here for an hour and managed to find only three of them.
Finally I realize this is one of those 'another time' experiences. The thought does not bother me in the least. As a matter of fact, I am looking forward to coming here again. Perhaps by the next time I visit I will know even more about all of these remarkable women of Paris.
Just exactly who were the singers Carole Fredericks, Fanny Heldy, and Monique Morelli? Did the ballerinas Fanny Cerrito and Emma Livry dance on the stage of the Opera Garnier? Were all of the actresses buried here Parisian and did they live somewhere else? There are many questions about them to be answered before I return. It will give me an opportunity to know about their lives and really appreciate their talents and contributions to the city.
For Women About Women By Women
Paris for Free - Montmartre Cemeteries
Cimetiere Montmartre, Cimetiere Saint Pierre, Cimetiere Saint Vincent
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