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As time has rolled onward in its course, each succeeding age has produced its “thick cloud of witnesses” in favour of the practice of Cemetery Interment, and it by no means adds to the fame of British statistics, that the metropolis and the large cities and manufacturing towns of the kingdom, should have been so slow to adopt, or dull in appreciating, the advantages of suburban sepulture.
The French nation led the way in providing those beautiful and quiet places of rest for the dead, for which not only their capital, but their provincial cities and towns are so justly celebrated; and it is to the lasting credit and praise of the Gallican church, that every aid has been voluntarily given by its bishops and clergy, in furtherance of these most useful objects.
In perusing the various ordinances which the French archbishops and bishops have promulgated in their respective sees, denouncing and forbidding interment in churches, or within the walls of towns, extending in chronological order
from the decree of De Pericard, Bishop of Avranches, A.D. 1600, to the date of that beautiful ordinance of the Archbishop of Toulouse, which we have presented to our readers in the last chapter, we find the most anxious care for the physical and moral health of the people prompting every effort : nor do we read a line respecting the vested interests of priests in the dead bodies of their flocks; or that, before the legislature of the kingdom would endow a public cemetery with the special privileges of “ an act," each poor corpse brought within its precincts must be subject to the lien of the incumbent of the parish from which it might have been removed, to a mortuary fee, corresponding in amount with the rank of the deceased.
It is our object in pursuing the subject of cemetery interment generally, to lay before the reader a concise account of a few leading modern cemeteries, antecedent in date to those recently constructed in Great Britain; and which have formed topics for the interesting narrations of travellers who have visited them, and, have also in some degree, furnished models for imitation to the proprietors of our own.
CEMETERY OF PERE LA CHAISE.
In addition to the high praise of being the promoters of cemetery interment, and of compelling the observance of it by special legislative enactments and ecclesiastical decrees, to the French nation belongs the merit of possessing one of the most beautiful and attractive places of sepulture of modern times.
Every continental traveller pays an early visit to the cemetery of Père la Chaise ; and, in his note-book, its interesting associations find a place of eulogistic description.
It is probably known to almost all as being situated in the north eastern suburb of Paris, and as occupying an elevated spot, which is reached by a road gradually ascending from the city, and that from its summit a most interesting and extensive prospect is enjoyed.
The estate, now converted into a beautiful cemetery, was formerly the property of the order of the Jesuits, and an elegant mansion attached to the domain was the country residence of Father la Chaise, the confessor of Louis the XIV.
It is said, that the estate continued the property of that celebrated Papal order for upwards of 150 years.
Père la Chaise is doubtless indebted to this species of lineal descent for many of its internal attractions. Undisturbed possession is the best protector of aged or valuable shrubs and trees, and these are ornaments so peculiarly adapted for places of sepulture, that the most costly
and elegant architecture will not compensate for their absence.
In 1814, the garden of the Jesuits was first appropriated as an abode for the dead; and the conversion of the site was effected without any material alteration of the original walks or landscape ornaments.
The irregularity of the ground and its various picturesque undulations, impart a character to its appearance, and, indeed, a grandeur of landscape, which no artificial operations could easily effect. These natural advantages bring others in their train, as they present opportunities for allowing wild and thick masses of vegetation to form and collect, unpruned by the too generally formal knife of the gardener, and thus form admirable spots for receiving the dead; where, in uninterrupted solitude, bereaved relatives may, not stealthily, but calmly, enjoy their soothing visit to “ the house appointed for all the living ;" “ and there cherish all those interesting associations which ever cast a cheerful light over the darkness of the grave."
Père la Chaise is not, however, without its artificial decorations and the elegant ornaments of architecture; the grandeur of some monuments, and the beautiful simplicity of others; the noble cenotaph, covering the ashes of a nation's brave defender, emblazoned with beautiful illustrations of his deeds, from the breathing chisel of the sculptor, or uttering a nation's gratitude, with the sweet voice of poetry; the humble turf-clad mound, under which are sleeping the beloved remains of a wife, a husband, or a friend, whose virtues, unmarked by line or stone, are fondly remembered by that constant visitor to the grave, whose pleasing duty it is to bedeck it with the first flower of spring and the last of autumn; and who utters the holy "may he rest in peace,” with piety and love these all speak loudly to the heart, are more convincing to the reason, and more entirely draw the mind to reflection on the past and contemplations of the future, than when the last sad offices of affection are paid, and the remains “ interred in the city burial-place
“ To be thrown up again by some rude sexton,
Exposed to insult lewd and wantonness!" One most interesting feature in the cemetery of Père la Chaise must not be omitted, and that is, its entire freedom from all bigoted or sectarian pretensions : for, as pretensions, and impertinent ones too, we cannot avoid designating those illiberal dogmas and inventions of priestcraft, which will dare so far to interfere with the prerogatives of the Almighty, as to pronounce deprivation of burial upon the mortal remains of those who have but newly gone to give an account to Him, who alone “judges the quick and the dead”! It would be more commendable in the priesthood to submit with the moderation of Vigerius, when he says, “that the territory of the church is in this world, and the dead themselves are on the other side the border :" although, as if afraid of speaking the truth so candidly, he, with idiotic simplicity, adds, “ that, as their bodies still remain within the church's jurisdiction, the right remains of conceding church burial to them, or depriving them of it.” And, in proof of this, we are informed, that St. Gothard (or, perhaps, Goatherd was his name) once