Famous cemeteries in Paris: Picpus

Sladjana Perkovic | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Picpus cemetery is a place with quite a particular history. Created during the most tormented days of the French Revolution, this is the only private cemetery in Paris, still in activity. The cemetery contains a mass grave with the victims guillotined between the 14th June and the 27th July 1794 at the Place de la Nation. Since June 1802, this cemetery is a property of the family members of victims. And even today, only their descendants can be buried at the Picpus cemetery. In this cemetery, you can also find the grave of Marquis de Lafayette, a famous French military officer who fought in the American War for Independence. Since 1998, this cemetery is listed as a French historical monument. 


During the Reign of Terror (1793-1794), a period of the French Revolution, the guillotine was set in the Place da la Nation, between Jun 13 and July 28. In a short time, some 1306 persons were decapitated. The Revolutionary Tribunal decided to dispose of the bodies in the mass grave not far away from the guillotine. So, they found a place only five minutes from the Place de la Nation, in the garden of a chapel of an ancient convent. Among the guillotined were many noble French citizens such as the poet André Chénier, the architect of the Palace of Versailles Richard Mique, Jean-Joseph de Laborde who financed the American War of Independence and Alexandre de Beauharnais, the first husband of Josephine, who later married Napoleon I and became the first French Empress. In 1797, the Princess Amalie Zephyrine of Salm-Kyburg, whose brother was among the guillotined, secretly bought a land at the location of the mass grave. Later, many other family members of the victims bought the rest of the land, and eventually, they opened a second cemetery just next to the mass grave.  

Famous graves

Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, was a French military officer who fought in the American war for Independence. Known in the United States simply as Lafayette, he was commanding the American troops in several battles, including the Siege of Yorktown, one of the decisive victories in this war. In France, Lafayette was a very important figure during the French Revolution. He was buried at the Picpus cemetery, next to his wife, Adrienne de Noailles, whose grandmother was among the guillotined victims thrown into the mass grave. Over the Lafayette's tomb floats permanently an American flag, which is renewed every 4th of July, at the anniversary of Independence of the United States. This is also a day when the United States authorities, and well as French representatives, pay tribute to this "hero of the two worlds".

Practical Information

The Picpus cemetery is open for visits from Monday to Saturday, only from 2 pm to 5 pm. The cemetery is closed on Sundays and national holidays. The entrance fee is 2 euros.

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