What happens to abandoned chapels in Père Lachaise?

Translated from French, Les chapelles du Père-Lachaise revivent. By Oihana Gabriel. 20 Minutes. Web. 31 October 2012.

Père Lachaise workyard © Mike Jennings via Flickr
Père Lachaise workyard © Mike Jennings via Flickr

A second wind for chapels in Père Lachaise

Along the tree-lined paths of Père Lachaise (20th), many funerary chapels are showing signs of cracks and rust. But this year, the cemetery is testing an innovative solution: Funerary chapels that accommodate the urns of eight families rather than the lineage of one family.

The objective is twofold: Make room for the increasing number of urns and restore abandoned chapels. Indeed, restoring these monuments, which symbolized success in the 19th century, is very expensive. After several years of administrative procedure, the Paris city government obtains ownership and converts the chapels, which are in turn rented for € 3,500 to each family.

Parisian cemeteries are transforming their abandoned monuments into columbariums

“For me, urns are the future and help preserve the cemetery landscape in Paris”, states Pascal-Hervé Daniel, head of the capital’s cemeteries. Near the writer Colette’s grave, one of three funerary chapels has plaques, a grille for each niche, plus a private space to leave flowers or an object in memory of the deceased.

“It blends in perfectly with the Père Lachaise landscape” adds Pascal-Hervé. “It was an immediate success with families. In one month, 24 niches were rented!” Following this successful experiment—which earned a prize for innovation by local governments—the Paris city government will renovate 10 more chapels in Père Lachaise, Montparnasse (14th) and Montmartre (18th).

Twenty Parisian cemeteries will follow, thus facilitating access for local residents to these sites which have been saturated since the 19th century.

Evolving funerary practices have resulted in an explosion of cremations. In addition to these funerary chapels, rounded stelae (funerary monuments in the form of a low pillar placed near the foot of a tree or grove) could be installed in these green cemeteries.

In 2013, this initiative will be tested in Batignolles (17th). “We cannot put a grave near a tree because the roots cause damage. There are many empty niches in the columbarium. Families want to bury their deceased outside, in nature.”

Top photo: Père Lachaise workyard © Mike Jennings via Flickr
All other photos © Paris Mojo

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