Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Sadness at the end of the line...

Main entrance to the Croix-Rousse cemetery in Lyon
Lyon has an excellent underground metro system that criss-crosses the whole city to its outer edges, and I took three different lines today in order to get to my destination, the Croix-Rousse cemetery. It's Lyon's equivalent to the celebrated Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, except that it doesn't contain the grave of Jim Morrison.

The cemetery was born (if one can aptly say that about a cemetery) in 1823 and is the last resting place for about 50,000 people. Many local dignitaries and members of famous or affluent families are buried here, including Tony Garnier, a world-famous architect, urban planner and native of Lyon who died in 1948. Given this august guest list it's not surprising that there are many fine and grandiose crypts and family mausoleums with massive monuments of various sorts to be seen, and they offer interesting opportunities to take photographs, so I began to explore and take photos.

The cemetery is very well-kept. The grass is cut short, there are few weeds to be seen, many of the graves are well-attended to and the pathways are spotless. There are no walls or hedges, so one can always see most of the cemetery at once.

I walked around for a good hour, snapping away as I went, and eventually reached the far end outer limit pathway that would lead me to the back exit, a small gate in a corner. As I walked, I noticed a small area that had been surrounded by high hedges. That immediately struck me as being odd, given that the rest of the cemetery was in plain view. What was in there? I spotted a break in it, an entry point, although almost nothing could be seen from it except a pathway. Curious, I walked in.

I was stunned by what I saw. This small, hidden-from-view section, contained the even smaller graves of about twenty children. Only children. Most of these tiny graves and their surroundings had obviously been badly neglected for a long time, and the simple little wooden crosses and occasional small headstones were dotted about in an irregular and apparently random fashion. It was an extremely sad sight. Some of these memorials bore nothing but the name of the child, and even where there was a date to be seen it consisted of no more than a year number. The age of the child was never to be seen. The oldest plot I saw was dated 1998. Even more sadly, some bore no mention at all.

Here are the photos I took in that place, and I'll let them speak for themselves.....

I walked out of there feeling awful. Who were these children? Why don't their families look after them? After all, there are lots of other childrens' graves in this well-groomed cemetery with full name, date of birth and death etcetera on them, so why have these depressingly neglected and quasi-anonymous graves been situated here, hidden as they are behind a high hedge? And what do these deceased children have in common?

The cemetery's offices are at the entrance so I suppose I could have gone and asked for more details about these graves, but I was feeling so bad and, truth be told, not a little angry that these children's last resting place could be so terribly neglected, that I decided that it would be more prudent to leave discreetly.

I left this place, at the end of a metro line, after having gone there in order to discover things. Oh and I did. But I never imagined that I would discover scenes like these....

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