The Secret Cemetery of Paris You Walked By Without Knowing It

I’ll never stop delighting in the layers of Paris, and how after almost 7 years I can still discover new spaces.

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One of the latest is a little cemetery that most people, including locals, pass by without noticing. If you’ve ever been to Montmartre and looked at the quaint cottage cabaret of Au Lapin Agile, you’ve unintentionally turned your back on the Saint Vincent Cemetery.

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Behind a tall stone wall, insulated from a quotidien barage of travelers and tour groups, rests this lovely example of a French burial ground. It was opened in 1831, the year The Hunchback of Notre Dame started hitting bookshelves, and though it doesn’t boast many big celebrity tombs, you can find some key characters from the history of Montmartre.

What I enjoyed most that day were the leaves and how they weaved in and among the tombs. It felt like the perfect embodiment of November.

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You’ll find quite a range of tombs, both beautiful and slightly bizarre.

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Why not a bit of funerary nudity? This is Europe after all.

Probably the most famous resident of Saint Vincent is the 20th century painter Utrillo. He was a prolific painter in the area, and a while back I did a fun comparison of his paintings with modern day scenes of Montmartre. Here is his final resting place, with a rather lovely classical statue keeping watch. In this case she’s only half topless. Because she’s classy.

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Also as one tends to do, I snuck a peek inside some of the open chapel structures.

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I spent more time than planned in this cemetery, and during that time I saw not one single person enter. So next time you find yourself near Au Lapin Agile and the vineyard of Montmartre, descend down the hill just one more block and treat yourself to a bit of private meditation inside one of Paris’ best-kept secrets.

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15 comments

  • Off the beaten path in more ways than one! Stunning photography and fun commentary, such as “as one tends to do…” Good choice of cemetery. I did not know of this small one in Montmartre. The larger one with all the cats is worth a visit too.

  • Beautiful. Your pictures capture the peaceful stillness and serenity of place. We will be sure to stop and spend some time to reflect and meditate, and to simply just be. Thank you for sharing this secret place.

  • I spent at least an hour in the Roussillon cemetery this summer, on a market day, and no one else came in. Perhaps the gate is daunting, but I learned from a local a few years ago just to open the gate and walk in. It’s on a hillside, as is the cemetery in Menton where the tour guide told us the old cemeteries are on hills so the odors of the dead will be blown away on the winds.

    • Very interesting bit of info Lee! I suppose that would be true. It reminds me of the origin of burning incense during Christian mass–they say it was originally to cover up the stench of the bodies in the crypts beneath churches.

  • I found this cemetery, by accident. I am so glad I did, as I got some of the most beautiful pictures from any of my Paris trips. I spent a half day there and had it not been getting dark, I’d stayed all day. I was alone, except for a crow which followed me around the entire time. What stories these strange crypts could tell.

  • Another great blog and the photos beg one to visit. I so enjoy the stories or the creation of stories visiting the tombs ,shrines and chapels. Thanks Corey for another eye opening of “inside Paris ”
    Carol Vergano

  • Churches, their graveyards and roof-tops can provide fascinating subjects for visual exploration whenever time allows. You made good use of yours. The plants and their colours in your pictures were vibrantly beautiful; contrasting with that strange peace so characteristic of cemeteries in the middle of a city’s bustle.

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