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Glasgow Necropolis vs the Père Lachaise Cemetery


One of the buried gems of Glasgow is the Necropolis that lies behind Glasgow Cathedral, and is visited as part of our ‘Glasgow Must See’s’ tour. You might be forgiven for thinking that it’s the oldest cemetery within the boundaries of the city, but it’s not.

It was founded only in the first half of the 19th century on territory purchased by the Glasgow Merchants in 1650 for quarrying. However, the western part of it was not suitable for excavations and it was transformed in an arboretum – a fir tree park. By the beginning of the 19th century Glasgow’s industrial revolution and development in that part of the city wasn’t providing the best ecological conditions. The fir trees died and had to be replaced with elm and willow trees. The water pollution in the rivers rose and the dense population (which more than doubled at that time) led to higher death rates. The old practice was to bury people on the church grounds but it was considered less sanitary by the 1830s. It was decided to create a cemetery on the unused hill right in the heart of Glasgow, and Glasgow Necropolis was created in 1832.

Glasgow Necropolis is frequently compared to a similarly designed French cemetery - Père Lachaise, named after the confessor to Louis XIV, Père François de la Chaise (1624–1709) and established by Napoleon in 1804 in Paris. Many Catholics refused to have their graves in this cemetery, for it was not blessed by the Church. In fact, in 1804 there were just 13 graves there. Only after transferring the remains of Jean de La Fontaine (a great writer) and Molière (a great playwright) to Père Lachaise, it started to become attractive for burials, and in only 25 years it contained already more than 33,000 souls. Among famous people interred in the Parisian necropolis are novelist Honoré de Balzac, composer Frédéric Chopin, singer Édith Piaf and writer Marcel Proust. Irish playwright Oscar Wilde’s remains were also transferred there in 1909.

Like its French counterpart, Glasgow Necropolis has a number of interments of prominent people played an important part in Glasgow’s history. For example the mathematical physicist and engineer Lord Kelvin is buried there, as is the marine engineer and shipbuilder John Elder (Elder and his wife Isabella supported the first college in Scotland for women). Another notable dweller is James Templeton who was instrumental of the carpet industry (his factory can be seen on Glasgow Green, also part of private tour of Glasgow). Amongst others there are the Gypsy Queen (see our other blog), and Hugh and Charles Tennent, the largest beer exporters in the world, and many others.

Out of more than 50,000 interments, there are about 3500 monuments visible - many designed by prominent architects of the time (including Charles Rennie Mackintosh). Glasgow Necropolis and its Cathedral attract thousands of visitors each year.

Come on our Glasgow Must See’s Tour to discover more about the Glasgow Necropolis and its people.

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