Last Updated on 1st February 2022 by Sophie Nadeau
Situated on Île de la Cité, near Notre Dame and in one of the oldest parts of the city sits a maroon door. It’s fairly simple and blends in well with the surrounding ‘medieval-esque decor’ of the street.
The entire area largely escaped the complete architectural overhaul by Haussmann in the mid-late 1800s (much like Le Marais district of the city) and so the gravestone courtyard in Paris managed to survive. The nearest metro station of Cité (located on line 4) is located less than 100m away.
At a first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the courtyard that lies behind the doorway of number 26 Rue de Chanciness is most likely similar to any other in Paris. That is to say, it’s filled with trash cans, bicycles and maybe even a cat or two. The courtyard is pretty average in that it’s also filled with trash cans, bicycles and maybe even a cat or two.
And in many ways, it is very similar. That is if you ignore the presence of gravestones used as paving stones. That’s right, almost half of the courtyard is paved with old gravestones.
These are old tombstones tombstones from the cemetery of a religious institution that was demolished during the Haussmannian renovations of the 19th-century. In fact, almost half of the courtyard is paved with old gravestones.
Aside from the cracked, worn and mismatched nature of the stones, there is little to suggest their original purpose. The strip of mismatched slabs on the left-hand side in the photo below are the ‘re-purposed‘ gravestones themselves.
How can you tell if it’s really the Gravestone Courtyard in Paris?
Although the faint gothic script is barely legible in the worn mossy stones, they are the sole clue as to the stones’ original purpose. They were taken from churches that were torn down during Haussmann’s reformation of Paris in the 19th Century.
Finding information about the gravestone courtyard in Paris was almost as difficult as accessing the courtyard itself…
Following attempts at further research and a lack of information on the internet and I’m inevitably still left with the following questions about the gravestone courtyard in Paris:
a) How could anyone have possibly thought that this was a suitable use for the gravestones?
b) What happened to the bodies that presumably lay underneath the headstones?
Finally, on a less morbid note, the gravestone courtyard in Paris actually lies to the left of one of my favourite (and arguably one of the cutest) cafés in Paris, Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole. Sitting at the fuchsia tables, sipping wine, you would never guess that such an intriguing/ morbid courtyard sits barely 20 metres away…
Monday 5th of July 2021
Bonjour Sophie, love the site and love the café where our friend makes some of the best coffee in Paris ! Great article about something i didn't know, much appreciated.
Tanja (the Red phone box travels)
Tuesday 26th of July 2016
this is spooky!