Friday, May 30, 2008
Cimetière de Picpus
Mass graves holding 1,300 headless bodies of victims of the Revolution.
Nuns awaiting the guillotine.
The Picpus Cemetery in the 12th arrondissement is the final resting place of many hapless permanent Parisians, whose bodies were dumped into mass graves here in 1794. The cemetery was created during the Revolution from land seized from the convent of the Chanoinesses de St-Augustin.
Stacked high with victims of Dr. Guillotine’s invention, wagons arrived at night to deliver the more than 1,300 unfortunates put to death near the neighboring Place de la Nation during the Reign of Terror. Even nuns were not spared - they were charged with not being fervent enough in supporting the revolution's cause - and they approached the guillotine singing hymns (16 of them were beatified in 1906).
In 1797, in secret, the entire plot was acquired by Princess Amelie de Salm de Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, whose brother was buried in one of the mass graves. This cemetery is the largest private cemetery in the city of Paris and is still used by these noble families as their private burial ground.
However, the most famous resident of this cemetery is Marie Joseph Paul Roch Yves Gilbert Motier, buried here on May 20, 1834, at the age of seventy-seven. He died in peace at a ripe old age, a hero of the American Revolution and an honorary American citizen. To this day an American flag flies above his tombstone. M. Motier was better known as the Marquis de LaFayette. He is buried next to his wife, whose sister and mother were among those beheaded and thrown into the common graves. On July 4 each year the U.S. Ambassador attends a ceremony at the grave of LaFayette.
Cemetery open Tue-Sun 2-6 pm; 35, rue de Picpus