La Madeleine Cemetery in Amiens, a soothing landscape cemetery

In this period of All Saints’ Day, I take you to discover the very peaceful La Madeleine cemetery in Amiens, in the Somme region of France. It is one of the most beautiful cemeteries in France, surrounded by greenery, with an old part where the mausoleums seem to be lost among the trees and vegetation.

It is famous for housing the tomb of writer Jules Verne but there are many other places to discover.

The tomb of Jules Verne, a source of interest for visitors

What often attracts visitors to La Madeleine Cemetery in Amiens is the tomb of Jules Verne. The famous author of adventure novels that have left their mark on many imaginations died in Amiens, where he lived for more than 30 years (his house has since been turned into a museum).

The funerary monument is listed as a historical monument: it was designed by the Amiens architect Edmond Douillet, who built three churches in the city during his career (Sacré-Coeur, Sainte-Jeanne d’Arc and Sainte-Marie-Madeleine d’Amiens)… and was completed by a beautiful sculpture by Albert Roze representing Jules Verne emerging from his shroud and leaving the tomb. Albert Roze is also a native of Amiens, who signed a number of sculptures for the city’s churches.

Jules Verne's grave

The sculpture of Jules Verne, in Carrara marble and Burgundy limestone, was designed after his death mask, two years after his death, and was named Towards Immortality and Eternal Youth.

If you visit in winter, you should know that for some years now the tomb has been partially covered between November and March to protect it from rain and cold weather, following a major restoration phase.

If the monument is lovely and the author legendary, it would be a shame to visit La Madeleine cemetery in Amiens just for the tomb of Jules Verne… because the place deserves a little time.

Sculpture in La Madeleine cemetery in Amiens
Sculpture in La Madeleine cemetery in Amiens

La Madeleine Cemetery, a romantic cemetery

At the end of the 18th century, with urban expansion and the increasing secularisation of society, cemeteries began to move away from churches to the outskirts of towns. The days when people were buried at the foot of their parish church, right in the centre, gradually disappeared, both for reasons of congestion and for reasons of hygiene.

It is in this context that, throughout Europe, many beautiful cemeteries were created, such as the “Magnificent Seven” in England (including the Victorian cemetery of Highgate). In France, the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris (built in 1805) inaugurated the taste for landscaped cemeteries.

View of the landscaped cemetery in Amiens
View of the landscaped cemetery in Amiens

La Madeleine cemetery in Amiens is part of the same trend: around 1785, it was decided that the 11 cemeteries in the city centre should be removed and transferred to a very large cemetery outside the city limits. There was land available for this project, the former La Madeleine leprosarium, in the north-west of the city.

It was founded in the 13th century and acquired by the city in 1675. It was not until the spring of 1804 that the first trees were planted, 1811 that the first burial took place, and 1814 for the second. It was also in 1814 that a road was finally built to make it easier to reach the cemetery. The cemetery was “officially blessed” in 1817… but was to undergo further development work (creation of a chapel, accommodation for a caretaker, extensions in 1828 and 1872)…

Detail of a grave

The place was conceived not only as a burial ground but also as a place for walking, where one can enjoy a serene atmosphere, walk in nature… The very principle of a romantic landscape cemetery, which today gives the place a very special atmosphere. There are many species of trees: Scots pine, maple, ash, lime, yew.

An alley of La Madeleine cemetery in Amiens
An alley of La Madeleine cemetery in Amiens

The cemetery was soon enriched with beautiful monuments, some of which were signed by the Duthoit brothers, renowned Amiens sculptors who spent a good part of their lives restoring the sculptures of Amiens cathedral and were collaborators of Viollet-le-Duc. They are now buried in the Madeleine cemetery.

What to see in La Madeleine cemetery?

I advise you to wander through the alleys closest to the entrance of the cemetery, the right-hand side being the one I preferred. Here you can experience the typical atmosphere of a romantic cemetery: tombs surrounded by vegetation, and the presence of numerous funerary enclosures, a legacy of a time when concessions containing several tombs were “fenced off”.

View of La Madeleine cemetery

Why was this? Because it was forbidden to stack bodies on top of each other at that time! Several graves (between two and ten) were therefore placed side by side… or in a row. La Madeleine cemetery in Amiens contains 364 such enclosures.

Here you can see the Leullier-Monchaux enclosure, which contains 4 graves:

Enclos Leullier-Monchaux

And here, the one of the Duflos family:

Enclos funéraire Duflos à Amiens

There are 2111 perpetual plots in the Madeleine cemetery, all of which have been classified as historical monuments. A great deal of work has been done to list all their particularities, here for the enclosures and here for the monuments.

I advise you to look at all the details of the monuments, you will find many interesting and typical examples of funerary art. Here, for example, you can see two owls framing the monument of the Cornet-Frémont family.

The owl, which can see in the dark, symbolises a form of knowledge that transcends the darkness. It is a very old funerary symbol, which was particularly revived in the 19th century due to a renewed interest in ancient heritage… and indeed, this funerary monument in Amiens dates from 1851. Also noteworthy is the lamb on the cross, a biblical reference to “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”.

Gravesite of the Cornet-Frémont family

Here, on the tomb of the Paul-Barbier family, we can see a weeping angel… which is in fact a copy of a sculpture by Nicolas Blasset in Amiens Cathedral.

Sculpture of a weeping angel

Another example of a typical funerary symbol is the broken column, a sign of a life that ended too soon. This is a monument from 1892 to the memory of children who drowned in a shipwreck.

Monument to drowned children

The eye is caught by superb monuments, such as the tomb of the Grimaux family (the purchasers of the concession were bankers, which partly explains its grandiose character!)

We find the owl symbol but also the “winged hourglass” symbol, very common in cemeteries (on the metal part, under the cross). It represents many things at once: the passing of time and – through the wings – the possibility of eternal life, the brevity of earthly life..

Funerary monument of the Grimaux family

Another imposing funerary monument is that of the Petit family. Frédéric Petit, the original purchaser of the plot in 1881, was a town councillor in Amiens. The construction was originally topped by a bronze urn, but this was stolen… a sad and disrespectful phenomenon that can also be seen on other funerary monuments in La Madeleine cemetery.

Tomb of Frédéric Petit

During the visit, we come across birds and squirrels, proof that nature has its place here.

La Madeleine cemetery in Amiens also houses several monuments in memory of the victims of war: in particular, there is a military square from the 1870 war, with a monument to the fallen soldiers of that conflict; and the “carré des croix noires”, dedicated to the victims of the aerial bombardments of the Second World War, with 250 black crosses…

Carré des croix noires at La Madeleine cemetery

Some squares are also dedicated to religious orders, such as the Ursulines:

Carré des Ursulines

There are also, of course, monuments that are a little out of the ordinary, such as this mosaic stele bearing the inscription “Please leave the place clean”.

Mosaic grave marker

And then, behind the graves, we remember that there is always a story. At the bend in an alley, in the more recent part of the cemetery, the avalanches of flowers often signal the last resting place of these children or teenagers who left too soon..

Behind the dates and inscriptions, we can guess at lives that were too short, as here, on the monument that Sophie Damerval bought in 1873 for her husband, François Lamolet, a funeral monument entrepreneur who died prematurely at the age of 51. She survived him for only ten years, before she too died.

Tombe de Sophie Damerval à Amiens

There are also a number of graves of local personalities, and a colourful map is available on an orientation table at the entrance to the cemetery to help visitors find their way around.

It is worth noting the superb heritage preservation work carried out by the association Les Amis de la Madeleine, which works to maintain and restore the monuments, but also to publicise the cemetery

There is also a more “traditional” part of the cemetery, planted with trees, which you can also discover by visiting the cemetery.

Allée du cimetière de la Madeleine à Amiens

How to visit La Madeleine cemetery in Amiens?

La Madeleine Cemetery is located in the Saint-Maurice district, about 3 km (1.9 mile) from Amiens city centre. Here it is on a map:

You can get there by car, on foot if you like walking, but also by bus (lines 6 and 11B). The address is 480 rue Saint Maurice.

Access is free, opening hours are generally 8am-6.30pm.

You can quickly spend an hour or two there!

Hello! I am on maternity leave until summer 2023. I take this time to focus on my family so the comments are temporarily closed on the site :)

If you find these travel blog posts helpful, feel free to make a purchase on Amazon through this link; it will allow me to earn a small commission on your purchases thanks to the Amazon Associates programme.