Today’s post is dedicated to Tom Stryker, a fellow gravestone enthusiast and fan of Le Père Lachaise, the great Paris cemetery. Tom challenged me to write 10 posts about my tour of the cemetery. Not sure I will write that many, but here is my first.
As any devotee of graveyards would do, I spent my entire first day in Paris roaming the avenues of Le Père Lachaise, map in hand, searching for the famous graves of Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf. Oscar Wilde, and others too numerous to list. But it is the ordinary that also claims my attention—the tombs built by ordinary families. One such tomb was built by two families—Lautru and Margot. The tomb is a common one found in Le Père Lachaise—they look like telephone booths—vertical and small, often with a single iron door with some decoration on the front of the door. What is not common, however, is the decoration found on this tomb—a bat.
The bat is a rare graveyard symbol. Like many symbols it represents one thing in Eastern cultures and quite another in the West. To the Eastern cultures the bat is seen as a symbol of good fortune. Not so in the West. Since Medieval times, the bat has symbolized demons and evil spirits. In cemetery symbolism the bat is associated with the underworld. Think how often the bat is used as a Halloween decoration—it is definitely part of all things spooky, creepy, and the macabre.
And here is the bat on top part of the door to this family tomb.