‘Graveyards are crammed with narratives, all of which end in death. Gravestones are permanent marks we leave to give notice to future generations that we were once in the world – the sign made, just as we leave, that we were here. They are laid out in neat rows, a grid to impose order on the enormous tangle of human existence’ – Frances Stonor Sanders
Just outside the Narbonnaise gateway to the walled medieval city stands the 18th century Cimetière de la Cité, also known as St Vincent’s Cemetery. It stands on a small hill and is an intriguing sight when walking around the perimeter of the city walls with the graves about 15 meters above ground level. The cemetery has many fine mausoleums and memorials, with many graves decorated with photos of the deceased, a practice I always find very moving and makes the visit seem all that bit more reflective. There are some famous graves in the Cemetery, such as Jean Cau, a French writer and once secretary to Jean-Paul-Sartre, and a rugby player from the 1950s named Louis ‘Lolo’ Mazon who lead a historic victory over the Australians.
While in the cemetery I noticed a lot of Chrysanthemums on the graves, and quite a lot of advertisements for them around the city. It wasn’t until I returned home that I found out that Chrysanthemums are the traditional flowers bought in France on Toussaint Day or All Saint’s Day (November 1st) and considering the day of my visit to the cemetery was October 31st it was understandable that they were so plentiful. Families visit either on All Saint’s Day or All Soul’s Day November 2nd. Understandably Chrysanthemums are very rarely given as gifts in France due to the association with dying and death.
I really recommend popping into this cemetery while visiting the city, it’s a nice reprieve from the bustling streets and the backdrop of the beautiful city walls makes it all the more captivating.
GPS: 43.20583, 2.3661