Eastern Cemetery (Rennes, France)

Eastern Cemetery (Rennes, France)
The Eastern Cemetery (“Cimetière de l’Est”) was created in 1887 and it is the largest cemetery in the city of Rennes.

About the cemetery

This contemporary cemetery, where diversity and innovation are keywords, is a true reflection of the modern city of Rennes, its inhabitants and also developments of the funeral practices since the end of the 19th century. The architectural and sociological perspectives aspects of this location are interesting.

In addition to the interesting architectural and sociological aspects of the cemetery, the military heritage is also very important. The German military section and the Commonwealth section show the European dimension of the Eastern cemetery. Every summer, many foreign tourists come to visit these graves.

Furthermore, some important personalities are buried at the Eastern cemetery. One of them is Guy Parigot, a well-known actor theater producer who had a brilliant career in Rennes, in France and also worldwide, mostly in the United States and Canada.

In the middle of the cemetery, one can see a central way planted by bicentenary oak trees on each side, which were offered by the Tsar Nicolas II of Russia. At the main entrance of the cemetery, a room is available for families who want to pay their respect to the deceased and to organize civil funerals.

Basic data

The Eastern Cemetery is owned by the City of Rennes and managed by the City Hall of Rennes and the Funeral Department. At present, it isn’t protected, except through the Eco Label - a quality label for ecological green spaces.

The cemetery covers 163.142 m2 of land and includes 29.000 graves, of which 2.000 are military graves. There are also 1.600 cinerary niches (1.000 places in columbarium, 500 urn tombs, and 100 cinerary places).

The most representative nationalities buried at the cemetery are French and Maghreb (mainly Algerian and Moroccan). The predominant religions present are Catholic, Islamic, Jewish and Buddhist.

Important graves and monuments

The Rallé Chapel
The funeral chapel of Rallé family was created in 1967. It was designed and built by the architect Charles Rallé, son and brother of building contractors, for the family’s burials.

The French Remembrance’s monument
The monument of the national and local association French Remembrance (in French “Souvenir Français”) was created in 1901. This monument was constructed thanks to an initial public offering. It is the work of the architect L. Balle and the marble worker V. Folliot. This is an ossuary for the 1870 War Veterans and also the soldiers deployed in Rennes, died before the First World War. This monument of 31 m2 is a major component of the Eastern cemetery. In front of it, there is a central way bordered by bicentenary oak trees. Behind it, the French remembrance space protects more than 2.000 burials of fallen soldiers of the World War 1.

The Small eastern lighthouse
The small eastern lighthouse (in french “petit phare de l’Est”) was created in 2011.This space mainly receives the remains of lifeless children. It has been designed and built by Stéphane Bernigaud, plastic artist, in collaboration with the Funeral Department of Rennes. On the small eastern lighthouse, there is a fresco with some volutes and naïve arabesques. In this place there are also a tree with tapes, a box to receive some letters, a little memory column. All of those items have been created for deceased children, and for the mourning of their family.

The common grave
The common grave of the Eastern Cemetery was created in 2006. It is the final resting place for much deceased people. This ossuary was inaugurated in October 31, 2006. Philippe Le Ray, a blacksmith and a carver, he created this masterpiece named “The flower of life” (in French “La fleur de vie”), in cooperation with Anne Nazart, a landscape architect who designed the space around it. The Flower of life lies on a blue and red checkerboard made of shale. It is more than 4 meters high and represents all the dignity and respect for their dead people. This creation was promoted by The “Dignity Cemetery” Collective (in French Collectif “Dignité Cimetière”), and also by Rennes city.

Jean Boucher’s grave
The burial place of the sculptor Jean Boucher was created in the 20th century. In this grave are the human remains of the famous sculptor: Jean Boucher (1870-1939), who won the Second Rome Prize of sculpture in 1894 and 1898. His work was marked by an impressive creation of war memorial dedicated to WW1 soldiers, which are located in neighbour communities of Rennes as also in Paris, Verdun, Lyon and Guernsey…Jean Boucher was also popular for teaching. He tutored some famous sculptors such as Paul Belmondo. This grave is ornate by two bronze sculptures of his creation.

More on this LINK.

Innovative spots at the cemetery

  • The White Garden, unique in France, with a successful landscape in terms of meditation for cremated lifeless children.
  • The Common Grave is now seen as a real place for meditation, and not only for an unwelcome place for families.
  • The creation of a "river of dispersal" and a cinerary space with columbaria (influenced by Brittany Region), urn tombs and cinerary fields, is being elaborated. This area is planted with several kind of trees.

For visitors of the cemetery

The virtual tour allows seeing the graves of some personalities, with texts, photographs, videos. The website dedicated to cemeteries of Rennes. It will have a digital platform, online databases, preview of locations and detailed routes, information about funeral services, news… The first online databases version will become operational in the middle of 2015. In its second version, the website shall be provided for e-payment. By the end, there will be a virtual meditation of the dead. For already 15 years, the tourist office of Rennes City offers guided-tours inside the Eastern Cemetery to allow visitors to discover this location.

Programmes of research, conservation and preservation

  • A Heritage census of the Eastern Cemetery is being implemented by the city of Rennes.
  • Gaëlle Clavandier, professor at Saint-Etienne University, and Philippe Charrier, scientist at the CNRS of Lyon ("Centre Max Weber" in Lyon), as part for their research about perinatal bereavement, have contacted the city of Rennes, in relation to the White Garden. With the virtual tour, this project was presented in their class.
  • The student Rozenn HUAULT (University of Rennes 2), in 1989-1990, has written a thesis in sociology: "Life in the Eastern Cemetery of Rennes".
  • In 2007, Guillaume Perrette has obtained a specialty certification "Management of ornamental trees", with his "Analysis of arboreal heritage of the Eastern Cemetery".
  • The Eastern Cemetery is listed on the websites www.tournagesbretagne.com and www.filmfrance.net

Cemetery contacts

Cimetière de l’Est
Place du Souvenir Français
35000 Rennes

Tel: (+33) 2 23 62 16 00

Other contacts

Nathalie Bidan (in charge of Funeral heritage)
Address: Northern Cemetery, 36 avenue Gros Malhon, 35000 Rennes, France
Tel: (+33) 2 23 62 10 15
Email: n.bidan@ville-rennes.fr

Eliane Ammi (Funeral Department co-manager, in charge of digital innovation)
Address: East Cemetery, 1 place du Souvenir Français, 35000 Rennes, France
Tel: (+33) 2 23 62 16 00
Email: e.ammi@ville-rennes.fr

Patrice Quénot (Funeral Department manager)
Address: City Hall of Rennes, Place de l’Hôtel de Ville CS 63126, 35031 Rennes, France
Tel: (+33) 2 23 62 10 10
Email: p.quenot@ville-rennes.fr