Sunday, May 26, 2013

May 22: Pere Lachaise Cemetary and Les Invalides- the thrill of the hunt

We finally got sunny weather today.  We went to Pere Lachaise cemetery, where Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Marcel Proust and all kinds of luminaries are buried.  It was opened in 1803 and Napoleon declared that all citizens should be able to be buried there, regardless of religion.  Some of the graves have crumbled over time, and the ones that were not bought in perpetuity were exhumed, with the remains carefully moved to an ossuary, and new graves built on the site.  True to Napoleon's intentions, we saw recent interments that were Middle Eastern, Asian and Jewish along with Christian burial sites.  It was a wonderful mix of graves and mausoleums stuck together in a random mix of times and styles.
Ron at the grave of Abelard and Heloise.
We did visit Jim Morrison's grave, which had a lot of people around it.    If you look closely, the botom line of the inscription is in Greek and translates as "By his own demons".
What I really wanted to see, though, was the grave of Marie Sophie Germain, who did a lot of groundwork for proving Fermat's last theorem.  It was a challenge.  She wasn't on the map and the hustlers who will lead you straight to Oscar Wilde hadn't heard of her.
Finally, I found the administrative office and asked a helpful civil servant.  He looked her up on his computer and gave me a map.  It still took some wandering- the graves are so close together and hers was obscured by a tree- but I found her.  It made my whole day!

At one point I was out running in a small park near the hotel and found myself singing along to a song on my iPod celebrating Napoleon's defeat in the War of 1812 ("Alexander der große, der große große Held, der schlug den Napoleon im offnen Feld..")   Oops.  Maybe not a good song to sing in Paris.  We did want to see Napoleon's tomb, though, so we headed over to Les Invalides on the Metro.

The church in front of the building housing Napoleon's tomb, suitably grandiose.  Interestingly, the twisted pillars reminded me very much of the ones inside the church in Vienna where he married Marie-Louise.

Napoleon's tomb, which contains several nested coffins.  No inscriptions at all.  They're not needed. 
From there we visited the nearby military museum.  It was interesting but the collection wasn't as exhaustive as the one in Brussels.  It was OK, though- we'd had a very productive day! 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Regina! This is Hillary, Peggy's daughter. My mom tells me all about your interesting travels. I'll be sure to search for Marie Sophie Germain's grave the next time I'm at Pere Lachaise! It's one of my favorite places in Paris. Looks like you guys had a great trip.