Calvaire, Père-Lachaise, Montmartre… Paris has many cemeteries, each one more unique than the next. The necrosophist Bertrand Beyern, a specialist in the field, has made his passion for these places an unusual profession. With his website, he offers many funeral safaris to discover places with a new eye. In his new kind of guided tours, he offers the curious to venture into Père-Lachaise through original themes: “Black humor at Père-Lachaise” or “Crimes at Père-Lachaise: historical tombs of murdered… and murderers!”
A passion he developed from an early age. “I had the chance to discover the cemetery as a kid”, he explains to us. A childhood memory that was in no way linked to an event related to death. For Bertrand Beyern, visiting a cemetery was like a “treasure hunt”, as if the divisions represented for him a kind of “treasure hunt” by “looking for graves”.
Over the years, and through his readings, he realized that interest in the history of his burials had gradually fallen into disuse. “I started finding books on the subject. I devoured everything convinced that the adults knew everything. Little by little, I started to be a necrosophist and therefore started to take an interest in all cemeteries, not just that of Père-Lachaise”, he explains to us.
If the necrosophist has no preference as to the cemetery he visits, there is still one that has established itself as a reference, that of Père-Lachaise. A necropolis full of burials with unsuspected anecdotes.
With its 43 hectares and 70,000 graves, the Père-Lachaise cemetery is one of the most visited tourist sites in Paris. About three million visitors come to stroll between the many divisions. “It is, in the world, the most cosmopolitan cemetery which presents the greatest variety of celebrities”, explains Bertrand Beyern to us and adds: “It opened in 1804 and there is a large majority of the graves which are of 19th century. Paris was the cultural capital of the world. Artists who came and died in Paris were buried there.
This specialist in cemeteries does not hesitate to come and inform those who cross his path. “When I see people who are a bit lost, I go to inform them and I always ask them which country they come from”. With his knowledge in the matter, Bertrand Beyern manages to direct tourists to graves that may then be of interest to them. The one who spent “his whole life doing this” assures us that Père-Lachaise “is much smaller than the largest cemetery in France”, but that it has “a density of curiosity which is unequalled”.
The graves of Père-Lachaise, or elsewhere, never cease to amaze Bertrand Beyern. He who has passed many of them “for decades”, remembers this little note left on Alfred de Musset’s grave: ‘I would be eternally grateful to you for my mark of 14 in the French baccalaureate, you you’re a real friend. There is also this other grave that marked him as a child, that of a romantic poet from Nantes. “On her tomb, her surviving mother had her daughter’s most beautiful poems engraved. This burial has accompanied my whole life”, he explains to us.
Over the years, tourist “tours” in Parisian cemeteries have become more and more successful. As proof, one of his regulars “came 36 times”, he tells us, far from “250 times” of an enthusiast who liked to come and listen to Bertrand Beyern. The latter agrees that “the public does not necessarily come to see graves they know, but to discover” new graves and their stories.
Even today, many curious people roam the alleys of Père-Lachaise in search of mythical personalities, like Jim Morrison, Chopin or Edith Piaf who arrive “at the head of the podium” of the necrosophist. Recently, the burial of the singer Alain Bashung is one of those very visited by French speakers, recalls the specialist, even if it does not equal that of the philosopher Allan Kardec which is one of the most flowery in the cemetery.
In order to immerse you behind the scenes of the Père-Lachaise cemetery, Planet has followed a visit for you alongside Bertrand Beyern, to discover in our 3rd episode.