Paying Respects to Paul Cézanne: a visit to the cemetery of Aix-en-Provence

Cézanne family tomb Aix-en-Provence

 

The renowned Impressionist artist, Paul Cézanne, died after 3 days of influenza in his native Aix-en-Provence, and was buried in the local cemetery.

 

In honor of 104 years of his passing, I decided that it was time to take a stroll through the gardens.  This would certainly clear my confusion as to whether he died on the 22nd or 23rd of October.  Why would so many of his biographies disagree on this date?

 

How interesting: the engraving on the tomb says 22 octobre 1906, and the plaque to help visitors locate the tomb says 23 octobre 1906.  Fine.  I've done a bit of family genealogy of my own.  I know how facts are affected by the human element.

 

Let's explore.

 

Le Cimetière Saint-Pierre was created in 1824 when the city acquired land including two already existent cemeteries: a Jewish cemetery and a Protestant.  Prior to the reforms brought about by the Napoleonic empire, the politics of religion kept the people separate in life and death.

 

Currently, St Peter Cemetery covers 7 hectare, and is named after the quarter in which it's situated.

The attendant of the cemetery was extremely helpful and welcoming.  One wall of the office is covered in an impressive old map, with each numbered plot.  He explained in great detail the route to Monsieur Cézanne's grave.  I was reminded to go down allée 6, and turn toward Cézanne's favorite mountain.  Then he graciously handed me a photocopied map pointing out the more well-known names of Aix.

 

Not far from Cézanne is the tomb of the painter, Constantin.  (photo at left)

 

Other famous names include François Zola (engineer and father of writer Emile Zola), Sextius de Miollis (1759-1828, General who fought in the American War of Independence under Rochambeau), composer Darius Milhaud, Academie Française historian François Auguste Mignet, Auguste Forbin, Richelme, and many others whose names grace the streets of Aix.

 

 

The brochure/map explains that, in 1837, the bodies and funerary monuments were transferred from the cemeteries throughout the old town to this place.

 

I found the marker on a high spot above the Carré Israëlite (Jewish cemetery).

 

It reads: April 1832; DEPOSITORY the bones of old cemeteries.

 

Immediately to the left of that is a very curious stone that is engraved in English:

At Aix on the 6th of november --17

Just beyond that is the original Jewish cemetery.  Darius Milhaud's tomb is located here.

 

Strolling through the rest of the walkways, you will find well-maintained garden plots next to crumbling stones.  

 

Tombs in european cemeteries are rented, not purchased.  The 'final resting place' isn't very much different from the temporal one, so if you don't pay the rent, you will be evicted.  The bones will be exhumed to a common grave, and that space becomes available for the next tenant.

 

Moving right along...

 

It's lovely, and touching, and eternally connecting to read these Provençal surnames, and a family's words of remembrance.  The photos on porcelain, and angelic statues are so dated, and so timeless.  Where else but a necropolis would one go to find these art forms?

 

Likewise, memorial statues to the town's war dead.  It's astonishing to note the long list of young men who never returned from the trenches, and the battlefields that so quickly evaporate from the collective memory.

 

I wonder over their stories, and about the hands that continue to place wreaths and bouquets...

More AIXploits here.


Write a comment

Comments: 3
  • #1

    yamabuki zhou (Thursday, 04 November 2010 18:42)

    'Spirits Lament'
    http://yamabuki9.blogspot.com/2010/10/spirits-lament.html

    Dying is no fun
    Though celebrating death
    Transforms the suffering
    Gives it meaning
    Where before
    There was only pain

    But know this,
    It's only change
    Another turn in the spiral
    Of Life and Death

    You speak of me
    As if I were not here anymore
    Calling me a bum
    Calling me a poet
    Or an alcoholic
    As Jack Sparrow would say
    "Sticks and Stones, love"
    But I'm still here with you

    Or should I say
    We are all here with you
    We spirits of the dead

    Thou you, in your fear
    May call us ghosts
    As if we were monsters
    That you could exorcise

    We called for spirits in life
    Never guessing
    That, ‘like calls like’
    Have you any idea
    How many spirits
    Surround you now
    We are here with you
    Even if you don’t see us

    Call us dead if you like
    Though, you the 'living'
    Seem more like dreams to us

    The Chinese know better
    They feed us and house us
    Send us food and money
    And most importantly
    They speak to us
    Letting us know
    That they still care

    yamabuki

  • #2

    hamed.A (Thursday, 13 February 2014 00:45)

    hi, thank you for this topic, i was searching about Cezanne resting place and you helped me by this usefull topic,
    i suggest u to edit Cezanne page on "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_C%C3%A9zanne" and add his resting place, i couldent find my question answer any where on web but this page
    good luck.

  • #3

    emilia kalla (Wednesday, 10 February 2016 21:13)

    Fascinated of french impressionism and of Paul Cezanne as one of its most famous representatives,, I just happend to come across this site. Thank you so much! I want to go, and i will go, to Aix to visit his tomb in the jewish cemetery and the tombs of all the other artists.


View more gifts at Zazzle.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Email Format
Professional Reader
Reviews Published
Challenge Participant
80%
50 Book Reviews
Postcards Exchange