With museums shut, Parisians escape to city’s graveyards

Josep Puig

Paris, Feb 26 (efe-epa).- With Paris’ museums closed because of coronavirus restrictions, the city’s graveyards have gone from being places of mourning to small urban escapes from the frenzied activity of the capital.

Here, many Parisians are finding a sense of tranquility and perspective amid the turbulence of the pandemic, as well as art and creativity.

With life put on hold by the pandemic, cemeteries like the world renowned Père-Lachaise — which welcomes some 3 million visitors each year — and its winding paths lined with wild moss and cedars, attract a range of the city’s residents, from its more ascetic and contemplative souls to couples and young families looking to escape Paris’ hustle and bustle.

Devoid of tourists, locals can visit the tombs of those famous people who decided to make permanent their stay in the City of Light and some Parisians are noticing — for the first time — the beauty and mystery of the monuments of some of their tombs.

This is what Sylvain École, curator of the Paris cemeteries, tells Efe: “Since the beginning of the lockdown many are coming to the cemeteries looking for peace, art and are curious to know the lives of the celebrities who are buried here”.

Paris is one of the densest cities in Europe and certainly one of the least green spaces. To escape the concrete jungle, Parisians must travel to the outlying Bois de Boulogne and Vincennes.

This has made cemeteries such as Père-Lachaise the playground of many locals. Even more so with a curfew after 6 p.m. that does not allow one to wander off in search of fresh air.

“We had long wanted to come but never found the time. Now with the museums closed we decided to discover lesser-known places like this one,” explain Stefano and Sara, two Italians living in Paris.

“We came to escape the noise and take advantage of the calm of this place. We had never been to this cemetery before. It is a place to see because of its rarity and the number of famous people buried here,” says a family from Normandy.

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