• The 8th edition of the Printemps des cimetières, "the only national event dedicated exclusively to funeral heritage" according to the 2023 programming site, is held until Sunday.
  • According to Sarah Dumont, author and founder of Happy End, this event makes it possible to "arouse the interest of French people who are not concerned by mourning, to talk about a subject that is too rarely mentioned", but also that cemeteries become "nice places to live".
  • On this occasion, the editorial staff of 20 Minutes offers you some walks in the most beautiful or amazing cemeteries of our regions.

Guided tours, exhibitions, concerts, conferences, etc. Until Sunday evening, it is the 8th edition of the Spring of Cemeteries "the only national event dedicated exclusively to funeral heritage", according to the site of the 2023 program. Launched in 2016, this spring like no other has since managed to federate more than 66 departments and program more than 300 animations. And it makes it possible to "arouse the interest of French people who are not concerned by mourning, to talk about a subject that is too rarely mentioned," says Sarah Dumont, author and founder of Happy End.

The one who also launched the Apéros de la mort sees with a positive eye this "reappropriation of cemeteries": "In Bologna (Italy), we organize concerts all summer long. The program is very rich. We meet there to share a moment with our family. It is a great success. And in Les Ulis, graffiti artists repainted the entrance, brightened up the garbage cans. When, in Brest, sheep help with lawn maintenance, or elsewhere, yoga classes flourish there as do vegetable gardens. "Making our cemeteries live without disrespecting our deceased also means paying tribute to our dead in a different way," says Sarah Dumont. According to her, admiring the architecture of a burial or "strolling between the aisles with strollers" is also finally recognizing "our finitude and perhaps in the end being less afraid of what we do not know". So between the white grave of Eddie Barclay and the mysterious "tomb with corks" in Rennes, 20 Minutes gives you a tour of the cemeteries of the regions. Those who have talent, those who amaze, those who shine.

The Miséricorde cemetery, the "Père Lachaise Nantais"

It is undoubtedly the most emblematic cemetery of Nantes. Nestled since 1793 northwest of downtown, the Misericordia Cemetery has gained its fame thanks to the illustrious deceased who rest there. There are thus great bourgeois families (Graslin, Dobrée), industrialists (Lefèvre-Utile, Cassegrain, etc.), soldiers (Cambronne, Mellinet, etc.), intellectuals and scientists (Laënnec, Mangin, etc.), builders (Pommeraye, Ceineray, etc.), former mayors (Guist'hau, Bellamy, etc.), famous shooters of the Resistance (Jost, Fourny, etc.), religious or even the parents of Jules Verne. This is why he is nicknamed the "Père Lachaise Nantes". But the other particularity of Miséricorde is the beauty of its funerary monuments, sometimes spectacular, and its large alleys lined with cypresses and lime trees. This makes it a popular place to walk for locals.

In Rennes, the mysterious "tomb with corks"

He is nicknamed the Père-Lachaise Rennes. The oldest cemetery in Rennes, the Northern Cemetery is home to some local celebrities among its 14,000 graves such as the Oberthur, Pinault or Bessec families. But its most emblematic and intriguing funerary monument is the tomb of Father Joseph Thébault, better known as the "tomb of corks". In very poor condition, the grave is indeed littered with dozens of corks and beer caps deposited as offerings. A ritual that has not yet revealed all its mysteries. According to some, people would do it in an attempt to cure their alcoholism.

In Terre-Cabade, Sainte Héléna always works miracles

With its large neo-Egyptian columns at the entrance, the old Toulouse cemetery of Terre-Cabade, built in 1840, is worth a visit for its shady alleys and its large men, including recently Just Fontaine, and some funerary monuments on the verge of megalomania. But it is a more humble grave, covered with ivy and lined with ex-votos, that attracts the (superstitious) crowds. That of Saint Helena. Héléna Soutadé of her real name. This teacher, raised by the sisters of the convent of the Minims on the death of her parents, died in 1885 at the age of 50. But she rarely finds rest since the people of Toulouse still give her the gift of making the destiny of their children better or healing them. This guidance counselor from beyond the grave would also intercede in love affairs. It is said that two turtledoves followed his funeral procession to Terre-Cabade.

In Lyon, Loyasse to the Refuge LPO label

Between Rhône and Saône, he is nicknamed the "Père Lachaise Lyonnais". The cemetery of Loyasse, nestled on the hill of Fourvière, is one of the richest France in terms of funerary heritage. It presents a very important variety of chapels and monuments of the 19th century, made by great names in sculpture or Lyon architecture. It is also where several personalities of the city are buried such as the former mayor Edouard Herriot, the doctor Amédée Bonnet, Emile Guimet or Pauline Jaricot. In 2017, it also became the first cemetery in France to be labeled Refuge LPO (league for the protection of birds)

In Richebourg, tribute to Indian soldiers

It is in Richebourg, in the Pas-de-Calais, between Lille and Bethune, that the Neuve-Chapelle Memorial is located, one of the few monuments erected in tribute to the Indian soldiers who died in battle, in France and Belgium, during the First World War. The place was not chosen at random to build this circular building, adorned with a column flanked by two tigers bearing inscriptions in English, Arabic, Hindi and Gurmukhî that reflect the ethnic diversity present in India. Because if Indian soldiers were involved from the beginning of the war, it was during the battle of Neuve-Chapelle, in March 1915, that more than 4,000 of them fell on the battlefield. However, the memorial has no graves, the vast majority of soldiers having been cremated, while others were buried in Germany where they died in captivity. For the anecdote, the memorial of Neuve-Chapelle, designed by the British architect Sir Herbert Baker, was inaugurated in October 1927 by Marshal Foch, Lord Birkenhead, British Secretary of State for India, the Maharaja of Kapurthala and the famous novelist Rudyard Kipling.

The marine cemetery, the identity of Saint-Trop'

Blessed is the one who chose this place as his last home, by the sea, with a breathtaking view of the Gulf of Saint-Tropez. A place so special that it is even listed in tourist guides, as well as the famous Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption Church and its bell tower that make the identity of Saint-Trop'. The marine cemetery of Saint-Tropez is one of the most unusual places on the Côte d'Azur. The people of Tropez have rested in peace here since 1791. And among its occupants are some celebrities, such as Pierre Bachelet, Roger Vadim, and, of course, Eddie Barclay, whose white grave is adorned with vinyl.

The cemetery of the Château witness of the history of Nice

It is not for nothing that the cemetery of the Château is high among the "activities" to enjoy in Nice, according to TripAdvisor. Built in 1783 on the hill that the Phocaean Greeks had themselves chosen to found, several millennia ago, the ancient Nikaïa, the place of contemplation is a witness to the history of the city. With a breathtaking view, from the sea to the mountains. The burials of many Nice personalities, including that of the writer Louis Nucéra, are in the list of 2,351 burial sites listed by the municipality. René Goscinny, one of the two fathers of Asterix, the director Georges Lautner and the jeweler Alfred Van Cleef are also buried there. The cemetery also hosts a memorial to the victims of the tragic fire at the Nice Opera House, which occurred just before a performance on March 23, 1881. On that day, nearly a hundred people had lost their lives.

"To bring our cemeteries to life is to put an end to the anguish of death," says Sarah Dumont, before evoking these places of "appeasement, these islands of freshness and biodiversity". "We tend to protect children from death, to be in denial. We refuse to be around her when she is everywhere, in all TV series. Finding oneself between different generations is also an opportunity to talk about it more serenely, to learn about it, to better understand it, "concludes the author who preaches for cemeteries to become "nice places of life".

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