Friday, 6 August 2010

Les Mystères de Paris

Spending some time in Paris this summer, I of course tried to take a look at some things that might be of relevance to this blog.

At Versailles there was a small outdoor exhibition of the suits of some professions, including the astrologer's as shown above, and, of course, the busts and statues of some people who have played a role in vampire history. Not least Voltaire (below) who actually visited Senones, but later on attacked Calmet in his oft-quoted:

'Quoi ! C’est dans notre xviiie siècle qu’il y a eu des vampires ! C’est après le règne des Locke, des Shaftesbury, des Trenchard, des Collins ; c’est sous le règne des d’Alembert, des Diderot, des Saint-Lambert, des Duclos qu’on a cru aux vampires, et que le RPD Augustin Calmet, prêtre, bénédictin de la congrégation de Saint-Vannes et de Saint-Hidulphe, abbé de Sénone, abbaye de cent mille livres de rente, voisine de deux autres abbayes du même revenu, a imprimé et réimprimé l’Histoire des Vampires, avec l’approbation de la Sorbonne, signée Marcilli !'

The naturalist Buffon, who was the first to use the word vampire for a bat, can be found in various places (like the statue below) in the Jardin des plantes, even depicted like some kind of Dr. Doolittle who almost can talk to the animals. There is also a plane tree (platanus orientalis) that he planted in that garden in 1785.

The statue of Buffon is facing the Grande Galerie d'evolution, which actually carries the name of the botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, who before Buffon had been involved in developing the garden. In vampire history, Tournefort is of course known for observing and describing Greek revenant belief in his Relation d'un voyage du Levant.

A curious honouring of the dead can be seen at the Père Lachaise cemetery, cf. the tombs of Jim Morrison and Victor Noir. Currently there is an exhibition of photos of cemeteries from around the world, including one from Highgate Cemetery in London.

The mysterious, but fake tomb below can be found in a private vampire museum run by author Jacques Sirgent. Situated on the border of old Paris, it is easy and fast to go to Le Musée des Vampires by Metro, but entrance is only possible on request. Well, I couldn't go to Paris without trying to see a vampire museum, so I and my wife visited the place and had a pleasant time with Sirgent who talked about his books and his views on vampires, the possible location of Vlad Tepes's corpse etc.

Jacques Sirgent is the author of a number of books, including Le livre des vampires and Erzsebeth Báthory: Le sang des innocentes. One of his books is available in English: Drakula's Tomb.

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