Friday’s Tall Tales #15

Whenever I photograph a door or gate I wonder about its provenance, who and what has happened across said door or gate. I thought I might pick one from #Thursdaydoors and tell you a bit more about it or……maybe even weave a story about it.

I’d have liked to have written about the family inhabiting one of the tombs I featured yesterday but exhaustive research on their respective family names turned up nada. So, instead, I’m telling you a bit about France’s first crematorium.

The Père-Lachaise crematorium-columbarium is an architectural ensemble made up of the first crematorium in France, and a building (columbarium) to contain the urns. The 19th century building built by the architect Jean Camille Formigé is located inside the Père-Lachaise cemetery. It has been listed as a historical monument since 1995.

The crematorium and the columbarium are located in the eastern part of the Père-Lachaise cemetery, near the Gambetta entrance gate. They occupy the entire area of Division 87, approximately 4,900 m2 (50,000 sq ft)..

The crematorium-columbarium complex consists of a neo-Byzantine style chapel and four wings. The chapel, made up of a central nave flanked by two aisles, is built in a polychrome structure made up of white and black stones arranged successively in horizontal bands.

The roof is made up of a vast dome of bricks and sandstone, three small semi-domes and two chimneys. The main dome is decorated with stained glass windows by Carl Mauméjean installed in the 1920s.

In a basement room, there is a work by the French artist of Polish origin, Paul Landowski. Commissioned in 1943, The Eternal Return was only inaugurated in 1954.. The work’s original plasters are kept in the Landowski garden-museum in Boulogne-Billancourt.

To store the urns from the very first cremations, a columbarium was temporarily installed in the basement of the crematorium. The local council subsequently authorised the construction of a 304 m² (3,000 sq ft) columbarium placed along the perimeter wall of the cemetery which is rue des Rondeaux. It was later moved near the crematorium and also designed by Formigé. It now contains around 30,000 boxes.


Since June 1998, the crematorium has been managed by the Société anonyme d’économie mixte des directors funèbres de la Ville de Paris (SAEMPF), which uses the name Services funéraires – Ville de Paris (SFVP). The company is majority owned by the city of Paris.

As of September 2019, the management of the Père-Lachaise crematorium has been entrusted for 30 years to the Société des crématoriums de France, a subsidiary of the Funecap16 group who are tasked with a complete renovation of the Père-Lachaise in order to preserve and repair the building, improve the reception of the public and modernise the technical installations. A second Parisian crematorium is being built in the 19th arrondissement,Square Forceval, and should open in 2024.


22 Comments on “Friday’s Tall Tales #15

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