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Picpus Cemetery Lafayette's Grave

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Picpus Cemetery


La lafayette's grave

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Why you will love it?

Although almost unknown to the Parisians, the Picpus Cemetery is very popular among the American visitors as it holds the grave of the Marquis de Lafayette, a French general that fought for the American independence. But this private cemetery is also the resting place of the 1,306 people that were guillotined between June 14th and July 27th 1794.

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About this place

35 Rue de Picpus, 75012 Paris
Line 6 - Picpus

Friday : 14:00 pm - 17:00 pm
more less
Monday : 14:00 pm - 17:00 pm Tuesday : 14:00 pm - 17:00 pm Wednesday : 14:00 pm - 17:00 pm Thursday : 14:00 pm - 17:00 pm Friday : 14:00 pm - 17:00 pm Saturday : 14:00 pm - 17:00 pm Sunday : Closed

Our Insiders' Article

Picpus Cemetery

The Picpus Cemetery is one of the two private cemeteries in Paris, and is open from Monday to Saturday in the afternoon only. There is a small and interesting chapel at the entrance, and behind the chapel is a large and beautiful garden. The very small cemetery and the 2 communal graves are located at the back of the garden on the right, in a special area separated by a stone wall. Other curiosities include a third communal grave (dug out but never used) and the gate from where the carriages carrying the decapitated bodies would enter at night and dump them in the pit.


Although most Parisianist have probably never heard about the Picpus Cemetery, there are a lot of American visitors that come here to see the grave of the Marquis de Lafayette, a French aristocrat and general in the American Revolutionary war which lead to the independence of the USA.  He was also a good friend of George Washington. Lafayette’s grave is easily recognizable as it is always has an American flag over it.

Parisianist Fun Fact: Every year on the 4th of July, the cemetery is closed for a celebration during which the US Ambassador to France pays homage to the French general.


Back in the 18th century, what is now the Picpus Cemetery was once a convent for the Saint Augustin canonesses created by King Louis XIII in 1640 outside of the old Parisian city walls. But in 1792, 4 years after the start of the French Revolution and its profound anti-religious spirit, the canonesses were forced to leave and the area was confiscated by the state (“bien national”). The mass slaughtering of nobles, aristocrats, members of religious orders and ordinary people reached a peak in 1794 during a time which was called the Terror.

Communal Graves

Between June 14th and July 27th 1794, 1,306 people aged 14 to 90 were guillotined on the Place du Trône Renversé, today known as Place de la Nation. Every day, an average of 55 people were beheaded and in the dead of night, their bodies were secretly carried to the communal graves on the grounds of the ancient convent. The mass killings stopped on July 27th when the mastermind behind those killings, Maximilien de Robespierre, was arrested and guillotined. The graves were discovered by a relative of an unfortunate guillotined person who followed the carriage full of bodies.

Parisianist Morbid Moment: The chapel of the ancient convent was used by the gravediggers to make an inventory of the clothes of those that had been executed. The blood soaked terrain caused an unbearable stench, enhanced by the fact that the communal graves were covered with planks. Only when the pits were full were they covered with earth.

Private Cemetery

In 1796, the area including the communal graves was secretly purchased by a German princess who had lost her brother in the mass executions, and therefore protected. In 1802, a committee is created to purchase the grounds of the old convent in order to create a cemetery for the relatives of those that had lost their lives in June and July of 1794. Only the people who had a member of their family buried in the communal graves could be buried in the cemetery. This is why the Marquis de Lafayette and his wife were buried here: his wife’s sister and mother were both guillotined and thrown into the communal grave.

Parisianist Fast Fact: Picpus cemetery is still an “active” cemetery today, still being the eternal resting place of those who have family ties with their 1794 relatives.


Apart from the cemetery and communal grave, there are three other curiosities. All the way at the end of the garden, on the opposite side of the cemetery is the area where a third pit was dug, but was never used. On the wall next to it is a sign indicating the portal through which the carriages transporting the bodies would enter the area to unload them in the pits. A visit to the small chapel at the entrance of the Picpus Cemetery is very emotional as the names, age and profession of each of the 1,306 people are listed on the walls near the altar.

Parisianist Fun Fact: the sculpture of the Virgin holding Jesus visible in the chapel was created in 1530 and is believed to have been the origin of countless miraculous healings, including the healing of King Louis XIV in 1658.

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