Cimetière du Montparnasse

Montparnasse Cemetery (French: Cimetière du Montparnasse) is a cemetery in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris, part of the city’s 14th arrondissement.

Created from three farms in 1824, the cemetery at Montparnasse was originally known as Le Cimetière du Sud (Southern Cemetery). Cemeteries had been banned from Paris since the closure, owing to health concerns, of the Cimetière des Innocents in 1786. Several new cemeteries outside the precincts of the capital replaced all the internal Parisian ones in the early 19th century: Montmartre Cemetery in the north, Père Lachaise Cemetery in the east, and Montparnasse Cemetery in the south. At the heart of the city, and today sitting in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, is Passy Cemetery.

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Montparnasse Cemetery is the eternal home of many of France’s intellectual and artistic elite as well as publishers and others who promoted the works of authors and artists. There are also monuments to police and firefighters killed in the line of duty in the city of Paris. There are also many graves of foreigners who have made France their home.

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The cemetery is divided by Rue Émile Richard. The small section is usually referred to as the small cemetery (petit cimetière) and the large section as the big cemetery (grand cimetière).

Although Baudelaire is buried in this cemetery (division 6), there is also a cenotaph to him (between division 26 and 27).

Because of the many notable people buried at Montparnasse Cemetery it is a highly popular tourist attraction.

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Unlike Montmartre and Belleville, Montparnasse was not one of the hills that ringed the smaller Paris of days gone by. In the 16th century, the place which is now the Vavin – Raspail junction was part of a rural landscape where all manner of rubbish, including rubble and stones from the nearby quarries, was dumped. A century later, the resultant mound was given the mythological name of “Mont Parnasse” (Mount Parnassus), and students from the Latin Quarter, in the present-day 5th arrondissement, would walk through the fields to drink and dance in the rural cafés. One of those students was the philosopher Voltaire, who studied at the Jesuit Collège de Clermont (now lycée Louis-le-Grand).
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In the 17th century, the land now occupied by the cemetery formed part of two farms belonging to the Hôtel-Dieu hospital and a property owned by the religious order Les Frères de la Charité. It was around this time that the members of the order built a windmill, which may still be seen (without its blades) at the western end of the cemetery. Like all church property, the land was confiscated during the French Revolution, and the new owner – the Assistance Publique – used it as a burial ground for those who died in hospital and whose remains were not claimed.
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Famous people buried in the Montparnasse cemetery are: Sainte-Beuve – Henri Poincaré – Proudhon – Dreyfus – Charles Baudelaire – Guy de Maupassant – Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir – Gérard – Fantin Latour – Rude (author of the Marseillaise à l’Arc de Triomphe) – Houdon – Zadkine – Bartholdi Charles Garnier – César Frank – Saint-Saëns – Littré – Larousse – Cécile Sorel – Beckett. Famous sculptors: ‘The Four Sergeants of la Rochelle’, accused of being part of the ‘Carbonari’ secret society that tried to raise up France against the Bourbons, were beheaded in 1822. They had been buried at Clamart before being cleared by the July government. A monument commemorates them (8th div.). Tomb T. Rachevskaia. It is here that the famous ‘Kiss’ of Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957) can be found. This stone sculpture dating from 1910 is one of the first works carried out in Paris in the cubist style by the Romanian sculptor whose workshop has been reproduced in front of the Beaubourg Centre.

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One thought on “Cimetière du Montparnasse

  1. I’ve always wanted to visit this cemetery but never had the time. Well, there’s always a next time for Paris, so sooner or later I will see it! Thank you for all the interesting info 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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