Herman Bolle and Mirogoj

By Christopher Zoukis His name was Herman Bolle.  A Frenchman descended from generations of German architects, Bolle made Croatia his home for fifty years, residing in Zagreb.  Herman, too, was an architect.  He had knack for it, designing and building many buildings.  His Neo-Renaissance structures imprinted all of Croatia with edifices for diversion and thrill […]

Read More


E. M. Cioran

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy amazon.com

It sits in the elongated, latticed shade of the Eiffel Tower.  Stippled with Gothic architecture:  ribbed vaults sit like blackened bones of whales, flying buttresses which paralyze viewers with indecision, pointed arches which could summon convenient elemental spirits if need be, and steep roofs down which certain arcane energies slide.  No longer au courant in today’s hypercivilized world, all this Gothicism pushes back the odor of progress.  But you must agree it has a certain charm.

Here is the palpable reality of the doctrine of worth through magnitude.  The prevailing virtues here are bigger, better and more flamboyant.  All this Gothic architecture shouts of sophisticated hylotheism, which states that matter is God and that there is no God except matter. 

All that matters here and now is the fancy hem of matter – the ornate tombstones – under which the residents reside.

The tourists come, tiptoe around, and look.  They don’t say much, and when they do they whisper.  For here words are stale, emotion spends its force against nothing.  For here are the dead, and the famous.  The dead famous, the famously dead.

Gothic cemeteries have a smell, the scent of smooth bourbon and vanilla flavored Cavendish tobacco.  The odor of an elusive familiarity.  It mixes with sounds half-muffled by massive Gothic monuments – low arias for the dead.  All together, the sights, the sounds, the scents, they form a necessary overcompensation.  For the dead are not interesting, only their lives are interesting.  Embarrassed, they make up for their present humdrum condition by not-so-subtle sensory hallucinizers.  

It is Montparnasse Cemetery.  The place of petrified history.  The French know it as Cimetiere du Montparnasse, located in the 14th arrondissement of Paris.

Read More


Pere Lachaise

By Christopher Zoukis  Pere Lachaise

It covers 118 acres of prime land, which would be worth several fortunes to modern developers.  Just thinking about it must cause developers to drool.  I mean what a waste of prime real estate! 

Pere Lachaise it’s called.  Victor Hugo once said, “To be buried in Pere Lachaise is like having mahogany furniture.”

The oldest cemetery in Paris, Pere Lachaise opened for business in 1804.  And did so by royal command of Napoleon Bonaparte, who was responding to a national emergency:  a lack of new burial sites.  So many dead and so little room to bury them.

Indeed, the ‘no vacancy’ problem came to Napoleon’s attention when, the relics of corpses at Cimetiere des Innocents (a cemetery in Paris), as if rising up at the Rapture, shifted, literally breaking through the wall of an apartment complex in which resided the living.  Spewing corpses into the basement of the building, along with a mist of mephitic effluvium, which practically asphixiated the residents, the incident set off government legislation closing all Parisian cemeteries and churchyards to further burials.

Nicholas Frochot, the city planner, by some mysterious means, purchased 118 acres of land from Baron Desfontaines, land that had once upon a time belonged to Louis XIV’s confessor, Pere Lachaise. 

Read More