Cimetière de Liers – Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois, France - Atlas Obscura
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Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois, France

Cimetière de Liers

Huge Russian Orthodox cemetery in danger of being converted into open public space. 

One of two major cemeteries in the city, the Cimetière de Liers is a Russian Orthodox cemetery on the Rue Leo Lagrange in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois, département Essonne, France.

After a group of White Emigres settled in the area in what was originally an 18th-century farm, the local cemetery was converted into a Russian Orthodox cemetery. The Dormition Church, which serves the cemetery, was built between 1938 and 1939 by Albert Benois. Enlarged over the years, the cemetery now holds more than 10,000 Russian emigrants, including Nobel Prize winner Ivan Bunin. Other famous occupants include author Dmitry Merezhkovsky, painter Konstantin Somov, dancers Rudolf Nureyev and Serge Lifar, philosopher Nikolai Lossky, and filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky.

The cemetery has been the subject of some controversy over the years. Ever since the 1960s, municipal authorities have attempted to close the cemetery so that the grounds could be used for other public services. Currently, the site is not officially designated as a landmark so it has no legal protection. Some reports have noted that, in the event of a closure, the graves would be opened and the exhumed remains cremated.

It’s not just the estates of those buried in the cemetery that are trying to protect it. The cemetery has a vocal group attempting to save it because they consider it a beautiful space: The large Orthodox graves, remarkable for their wooden crosses, carved niches filled with candles and icons, and flower gardens surrounding them draw visitors from all over.