March 19th, 20th, 21th
“Death must be so beautiful…to have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.” Oscar Wilde
In the past few days, I ventured back in time. I visited to another world within Paris, the realm of the great deceased. On March 20th, I went to visit the most famous and most visited cemetery in Paris and in the world, Père Lachaise. Père Lachaise takes its name from the confessor of Louis XIV, Père François de la Chaise. A garden graveyard built on the side of a hill, Père Lachaise is not just any ordinary graveyard, but a city of the dead with its own winding streets named after famous people laid to rest there. Père Lachaise is the place set apart for all Parisiens dead or alive. To be buried Père Lachaise, one has to be either a citizen of Paris, or to have died in Paris. For the living Parisiens, Père Lachaise is their favorite location for a walk (the French really likes promenades in graveyards for some reason).
Given the numerous great spirits laid to rest in this cemetery, I decided to follow the guided tour laid out in Anna Erikssön and Mason Bendewald’s book Meet Me At Père Lachaise. As I walked down the winding roads following the instructions in the book, reading about the life stories of the famous deceased, I felt myself transferred into a much more peaceful world. I felt like if I was quiet enough I can almost Molière and La Fontaine discussing literature or Chopin playing music. I couldn’t help but be filled with great awe and respect for all who has given their lives to making our world as beautiful and rich as it is now.
some of the famous graves at Père Lachaise: Chopin, Abelard and Heloise, Jim Morrison, La Fontaine, Oscar Wilde, Balzac, and Molière.
Earlier on March 19th, I went to Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris and Sainte-Chapelle on the île de la Cité.
Notre-Dame de Paris
Finally, today I visited the Musée Jacquemart-André in the Belle-Epoch bourgeois townhouse of the art collector Edouard André and artist Nélie Jacquemart designed by famous architect Henri Parent. This museum is also one of my favorite smaller museums. Not only does it boast of a great collection of paintings, sculptures, artifacts, and decorative art collected by the couple through their travels around Europe and the world, the architecture of the house itself can be considered a masterpiece (in fact, I liked this townhouse better than Palais du Versailles, which is a little bit too ornamented for my taste). I was struck with awe by the amazing work the couple has done for the art collections in France, both acquiring important paintings themselves and helping French museums with their fund and donations. At the same time, I can’t help but admire at the design of the spiraling staircase positioned in one side of the house, the retractable walls of the reception room, and the exquisite winter garden.
Finally, I had the luck to enjoy the temporary exhibit of female French-American impressionist artist Mary Cassatt. She was a great friend of Edgar Degas, an important member of the impressionist movement, and spent part of her childhood in the Philadelphia area in Pennsylvania. She was a great advocate for presentation of women in paintings and particularly enjoyed depicting the subject of maternity and the tender relationship between mother and child.