Results 1-2of 2 Reviews
April 25, 2003
The lush, flower-filled cemetery is a quiet ramble for those who find cemetery-exploring enjoyable; here lies the tragic suicide at age 41, Jean Seberg, the Mid-West unknown who shot to overnight stardom as Joan of Arc, portrayed Francoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse heroine, married the noted French author, Romain Gary, and became an actress warmly accepted by French cinema lovers. Other illustrious personages interred within its confines are Larousse of French Dictionary fame, Alfred Dreyfus of the infamous discrimination case, Camille Saint-Saëns, the moodily romantic musician, and the sculptor Brancusi as well as car mogul, Citroën.
Many of the graves and mausoleums of the not-so-famous can occupy your attention as there are more than 3400 tombs in the 18 hectare, pentagon-shaped Montparnasse Cemetery. Above all, its green spaciousness provides welcome relief from its big city building "neighbors." Formerly known as Le Cimetière du Sud, "South Cemetery," in 1824 its environs marked the southern end of the city of Paris. This was an area of millers that gradually changed as Paris expanded and as the whole area of Montparnasse drew artists of all kinds, musicians, and writers, and exploded as an "in" area of creativity in the 1920’s and l930’s.
Today, the once-controversial height of Tour Montparnasse affords stunning vistas of the city from its top, yet even a visitor has to admit it sticks out all too prominently from its rather lovely middle-class Parisian neighborhood Wisely in my opinion, a city ordinance enacted after the Tour’s completion bans the erection of any other edifice of that height in Paris. For me, the Tour breaks the symmetry that so characterizes Paris. We rented an apartment on a quiet side street to the south of the all-too-busy Gare Montparnasse area that borders this cemetery. Montparnasse is a delightful residential area that offers cheaper accommodation and excellent public transportation to the city’s main sights as well as to sites in nearby Ile de France locations. This cemetery is just off the beaten path for relaxing and ruminating.
Open 8am-5pm during the week, 8:30am to 6pm on Saturdays, and 9am-6pm on Sundays (closing earlier at 5:15 from November-March). Metro: Raspail.
From journal Striking Paris-Outdoor Artistry, Symmetrical City
Sea Girt, New Jersey
February 16, 2001
The cemetery is arranged on a grid system like a small city, complete with street names. It can be hard to find certain graves, but a photocopied map that notes the locations of famous final resting places is available at the gate (for free when we were there). We spent the better part of a morning poking around the crowded headstones. Some of the statuary in the cemetery is hauntingly beautiful - particularly the many statues of angels which seem to hover over the graves. The cemetery is a "who's who" of Parisian Left Bank culture - anyone with an interest in art and literature and theater will be intrigued by the many luminaries of those genres who are buried here. It gives you a great sense of role Paris has played in literature and art, as so many creative greats are buried here.
Montparnasse is a calmer and more peaceful cemetary to visit than Pere LaChaise (where Jim Morrison is buried), as it doesn't have hoards of college kids combing through it looking for the Lizard King. It consequently has no grafitti marring its headstones.
Admission is free.
From journal Winter in Paris