The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 3: European Gardens (500AD-1850)

Cemetery gardens in France

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243. Garden cemeteries are not uncommon in France; and if they are not always ornamented with sepulchral vases, monumental statues, and mausoleums, they are, at least, generally planted with trees and shrubs, and have the graves decorated with flowers. The most celebrated of those in Paris is called the Cemetery of Pere la Chaise. The Cemetery of Pere la Chaise. The space walled in contains about seventy acres: the ground originally belonged to a Jesuit, named Pere la Chaise, who was the confessor of Louis XIV., and from whom the cemetery takes its name. When an act was passed by the French legislature to prohibit burying within the precincts of towns, this tract of ground was set apart for its present purpose; and it was first used as a cemetery in the year 1804. Between that time and 1832, it is said that nearly 30, 000 monuments were erected within it. �This burial-ground,� Hazlitt observes, �is tricked out and overacted, as if there were nothing sacred from impertinence and affectation� (Notes, Sec., p. 111.); and it is certain that the custom which prevails of decking many of the graves with artificial flowers and wreaths of everlasting (Helichrysum), dyed different colours, together with the fanciful conceits inscribed on some of the stones, give the whole an air of frippery, which appears very incongruous with the solemn destination of the place. Some of the graves are enclosed with iron palisades, within which grow roses, weeping willows, lilacs, honeysuckles, &c., with a variety of different kinds of flowers; and some of the larger monuments are very handsome (fig. 67.). The expense of burying in this cemetery is rather high: about 25s. English are paid for a common grave, and ten or twelve pounds required for permission to erect a permanent mausoleum. In 1848 many of the tombs were destroyed by the insurgents who took shelter in the cemetery, and defended it against the soldiers. There are many other cemeteries in Paris, but Pere la Chaise is considered the best.