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.
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...