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Père LaChaise Cemetery, the biggest of its kind in Paris, France is 110 acres in size. This is one of the Paris attractions that attract visitors in the thousands each year. They come to see the final resting places of famous French people over the last 200 years. Plus, on the same area there are three WWI memorials.

Come to the Pere LaChaise Cemetery via the Paris Metro station of line 2, Phillippe Auguste and you will be right at the cemetery’s main entrance.

Pere LaChaise Cemetery Historical Facts

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The Pere LaChaise Cemetery is named after Pere Francois de la Chaise who was Louis the 14th’s personal priest. He was born in 1624 and resided in the Jesuit House, which you can see right beside the nearby chapel. He died in 1709.

The cemetery opened for its first burial in 1804 and the first one to be buried in the Pere LaChaise Cemetery was a little girl only five years old. Her name was Adélaïde Pailliard de Villeneuve. In its early years not many people wanted to be buried there because the graves were not sanctioned by the church, so that first year a mere 13 graves were put in.

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That steadily went up in the next few years when the cemetery decided to help it be more famous by transferring into the cemetery the bodies of La Fontaine, Pierre Abelard, Heloise, and Moliere. After that, lots of people wanted their remains buried there and it had 33,000 funerals in 1830. Over all, there are millions of people now buried in the Pere LaChaise cemetery now, including a columbarium for cremation remains.

Another thing to see on day trips in Paris to the cemetery is the Communards' Wall, where 147 Communards, who were the final ones to defend the workers' district of Belleville, got shot May 28, 1871. This is the final day of what was called the "Bloody Week" when the Paris Commune was defeated.

In 1823, a funerary chapel was built by Etienne-Hippolyte Godde in the area where the Jesuit house used to stand. Godde also designed the entrance to the momument several years after that.

Père LaChaise Modern Facts

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Even now, people can still request to be buried in the Père LaChaise cemetery. But in order to qualify they have to have either lived in Paris or died in Paris. Plus, there is already a list of people who wish to have their funeral there, as not many plots remain.

Even so, the plots are mostly very small so the cemetery is able to include a lot of people in the space that it has. Part of the way it does this is to bury all family members into the same grave. It does this by creating shelves for each body. Another method of creating new plots is by the unusual practice of attaching a 30 year lease to each of the graves. If no one renews a lease, then the remains there can be unburied and it can be resold.

Aux Morts Ossuary

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The remains are then moved to the Aux Morts ossuary, which is a site that contains the skeletal remains of many people from Pere LaChaise cemetery. When it gets too full, the bones are cremated and then put back inside the ossuary. However, all bones, as well as the ashes are stored in their own individual boxes.