Heloise (1100 - 1164) Scholar/Abbess
Marie d'Agoult (1805 - 1876) AKA Daniel Stern - Writer
Colette (1873 - 1954) Writer
Nancy Cunard (1896 - 1965) Writer/Activist
Anna de Noailles (1876 - 1933) Writer
Conseulo de Saint Exupery (1901 - 1979) Writer
Gertrude Stein (1874 - 1946) Writer
Alice B. Toklas (1877 - 1967) Writer
Jeanette Wohl (1783 - 1861) Editor
Sphie Germain (1776 - 1831) Mathematician/Scientist
Melanie Hahnemann (1800 - 1878) Doctor/Homeopath
Gerda Taro (1910 - 1937) Photographer
Simone Del Duca (1912 - 2004) Business/Philanthropist
Marie Fourcade (1909 - 1989) Resistance Leader
Rosa Bonheur (1882 - 1899) Artist
Jeanne Hebuterne (1898 - 1920) Artist
Marie Laurencin (1883 - 1956) Artist
Grace Renzi (1922 -2011) Artist
Sophie Blanchard (1778 - 1819) Balloonist
Marie Anne Lenormand (1772 - 1843) Fortune Teller
Francine Navarro (1950 - 2008) Princess of Montenegro
Virginia Oldoini (1837 - 1899) Countess of Castiglione
Elizabeth Stroganova (1779 - 1818) Aristocrat
Marie Walewski (1786 - 1817) Countess (heart only)
Wikipedi.com - Pere Lachaise Cemetery
Marietta Alboni (1826 - 1894) Singer/Opera
Alexandrine-Caroline Branchu (1780 - 1850) Singer/Opera
Giulia Grisi de Candia (1811 - 1869) Singer/Opera
Maria Dubas (1894 - 1972 ) Singer
Celestine Marie (1840 - 1905) Singer/Opera
Adelina Patti (1843 - 1919) Singer/Opera
Eugenia Tadolini (1809 - 1872) Singer/Opera
Edith Piaf (1915 - 1963) Singer
Yvette Guilbert (1865 - 1944) Singer/Actress
Sarah Bernhardt (1884 - 1923) Actress
Annie Girardot (1931 - 2011) Actress
Suzanne Flon (1918 - 2005) Actress
Christine Pascal (1953 - 1996) Actress
Elvira Popescu (1894 - 1964) Actress/Director
Mademoiselle Elizabeth Rachel (1821 - 1858) Actress
Simone Signoret (1921 - 1985) Actress
Marie Trintignant (1967 - 2003) Actress
Silvia Monfort (1923 - 1991) Comedian
Jane Avril (1868 - 1943) Dancer
Isadora Duncan (1877 - 1927) Dancer
Loie Fuller (1862 - 1928) Dancer
Cleo de Merode (1875 - 1966) Dancer
Teresa Milanollo (1832 - 1848) Musician/Composer/Violin
Maria Milanollo (1832 - 1848) Musician/Violin
Wikipedia.com - Pere Lachaise Cemetery
Along with millions of other tourists who have visited the Pere Lachaise cemetery I am visiting the grave site of Heloise and Abelard. However, unlike most other people I have not come to pay homage to the famous lovers. I am here only out of respect for Heloise. Certainly I recognize the importance Abelard played in her life, my main fascination is with the intellect, spirit, and tenacity of this medieval woman.
Entering the grand main gate of the cemetery I visit the rustic restroom on the left side of the gate. Then I proceed to the conservation office to get a map. If I had waited a little longer I could have used the modern restroom behind that building.
The monument to Heloise and Abelard is one of the easiest grave sites to locate in this enormous cemetery. It is, as you can see, very grand. Actually this is not the original burial spot for either of them. They were interred together at the Oratory of the Paraclete but the bones were moved here after the Revolution in 1817 as a marketing ploy. The structure has changed very little since it was built although I notice a few metal posts are in place to add more support to the roof. I try to get up close to the sculpture of Heloise in an effort to get a better photo.
I find myself wishing I could talk to her. I have so many questions to ask her. I wonder how she ever managed to handle her uncle's violent betrayal and her husband's final abandonment. Where did she get the strength to survive and thrive in a religious life without commitment and conviction. How did she manage to keep her faith in Abelard alive when she had lost her faith in God.
How she must have missed their intellectual conversations and intimate encounters. I sit for a while and ponder the depth of her loss. Perhaps what makes this place so special is the realization that they are now together, not here in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, but for all eternity in heaven. Never to be parted again.
The monument is simply the earthly affirmation of their undying love. It is the ideal love we search for and hope to find.
Yet Heloise and Abelard's 'happily ever after' did not occur until after their deaths. I am too greedy. I want mine right now. I find myself wishing my companion was here with me. Before sadness engulfs me I decide it is time to move on to other sites. I make a checklist of the other graves I want to visit. There are so many to choose from. Among the top of my list are Sarah Bernhardt, Isadora Duncan, Edith Piaf, and Colette.
The Cemetery Pere Lachaise is one of the most famous and largest cemetery's in the world. It was established in 1804 AD, expanded over time to cover 109 acres, and provides burial space for more than a million people in graves and a columbarium. It is still used for burial but few spaces are available. Graves are leased for a designated amount of years instead of sold outright. The cemetery was landscaped as a municipal garden with roads, pathways, and vegetation designed to enhance both it's hilly and flat terrain.
At the website pere-lachaise.com you can take a virtual tour of the cemetery. The center photograph of the cemetery has an arrow for you to click on that allows you to walk around the cemetery and get a 360 degree panoramic view of the surrounding area. There is an alphabetical list of graves of famous people that allows you to select a site and see the grave and location on an interactive map. The map also shows exactly where you are and have been on your tour.
The land the cemetery occupies was, from 1626 AD to 1762 AD, a Jesuit retreat. In 1804 the city of Paris bought the property to provide a rural cemetery that would replace those being closed inside the city limits.
It was named after the confessor of King Louis XIV, Father Francis de la Chaise, who lived here in the 1700's. The name seems odd considering the cemetery was established after the Revolution, opened by Napoleon, and is not consecrated ground.
However, Napoleon made it a point to let everyone know this cemetery was meant to be for anyone regardless of their religion or race. It was a place where church outcasts could be buried with the same respect and reverence as devout parishioners. To a certain degree this along with it's distance from the city made the site unappealing to many people. Catholics did not want to be buried here because the ground was not consecrated. City residents did not want to travel so far to visit the graves of their loved ones.
To make the cemetery more desirable the remains of several famous people were moved and reburied here. The famous writers Jean La Fontaine and Moliere were relocated at Pere Lachaise the first year it opened. In 1817 the scant remains of Heloise and Abelard joined them. Their canopy monument was built from fragments of stone scavenged from the Abbey of Nogent-sur-Seine. From then on it became a popular destination for both the dead and living.
I search for the graves on my list and find only a couple of famous women. Colette is one of the graves I find. Then I get distracted by other women's graves that are not on my list. What, I wonder, did Jacqueline Giraud do to get all those medals. The one around her neck is The Legion of Honor, a very prestigious recognition bestowed on few women. The tomb of the Madame d'Aumont, Duchase de Mazarin is very grand. In contrast the bust on the grave of Eugenie Simut is very humble. Yet, I get the feeling both women were equally admired and loved.
No matter how hard I try to follow the directions on the map to find the graves on my list I get lost. Getting lost in the Cemetery of Pere Lachaise is actually a very nice experience. I find a hidden bench where I sit quietly and reflect. I am always baffled at the care people take of the graves. Many have been decorated with brightly colored fresh flowers or potted plants. How often does someone come out and water them? The relationship between the living and deceased seems to continue long after the loss of a loved one. I feel comforted knowing that in this city of the dead the living also abide.
FAMOUS WOMEN AT PERE LACHAISE CEMETERY
Copyright 2017 Creative Travel Publications, LLC
For Women About Women By Women
Paris for Free - Pere Lachaise Cemetery
Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise
You Are Welcome to Contact Me Personally With Comments or Questions