The Secret Life of a Cemetery
Original title: La vie secrète d’un cimetière
“In this enchanting book Benoît Gallot mixes his personal story as the cemetery’s curator with an account of how the living and dead coexist in what has become one of the French capital’s most popular tourist attractions.” — Kim Willsher, The Guardian
A deep book, and not sad at all! — La Croix, L’Hebdo
A delightful and instructive book. — L’Obs
Today it is in a book that Benoit shares his singular view of the cemetery. — Météo à la carte, France 2
A superb book full of information, fine, moving, full of humor, empathy and great sweetness. — Midi Libre
Discover daily life in the Père-Lachaise cemetery, the most visited cemetery in the world.
Welcome to the most famous cemetery in the world
Of the cemeteries of its kind, the Père-Lachaise tops them all: at 43 hectares, it is the largest green space in central Paris; with 3 million visitors a year, it is the most-visited heritage site in the capital; the approximately 70,000 graves include some of the most illustrious names in not only French history and culture, but that of the world, such as Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison to name but a few. It is no surprise therefore, that for more than two centuries it has conjured up countless popular ghost stories and urban legends.
Behind the scenes of a fascinating job
Benoît Gallot (41) has watched over the fate of the Père-Lachaise since he was appointed custodian in 2018. His job is to both manage the tourists and conserve the cemetery’s primary function, namely laying the dead to rest and guaranteeing the respect they are due.
Benoît Gallot not only works in Père-Lachaise, but also lives there with his wife and children. An unimaginable experience for the average person, but one in which he sees benefits, such as the 4,000 trees, 80 species of wildlife and 60 species of birds—a tiny piece of the countryside in the heart of Paris. One evening in April 2020, at the height of the pandemic, he had an unusual encounter: a ball of red fur slipped out of a bush. Foxes in the heart of the capital, a sight to behold during the French lockdown! Since then, via daily posts on his Instagram account, accompanied by captions expressing his passion and humour in a poetic way—now included in this book— Benoît Gallot shares his message: Yes, there is also ‘life’ in the cemetery.
Born into a family of grave stonemasons in 1981, Benoît Gallot has been the custodian of the Père-Lachaise cemetery since 2018. His ‘Life at the Cemetery‘ Instagram account has a growing community of followers (65K followers at the time of writing) captivated by his photographs of hidden fauna he learned to observe once the gates had closed.