Reason why ordinary man’s grave turned into symbol of love – and thousands visit each year

While the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower may be top of the tourism list for people heading to Paris, one of the city’s surprising attractions is its cemeteries – most notably, Pere-Lachaise.

The final resting place for notable figures such as Oscar Wilde, Chopin and Jim Morrison, the 100 acre site is visited by around 3 million people each year.

But amongst the famous memorials is a grave that has achieved cult status, despite its owner living a fairly ordinary life.

Victor Noir was an apprentice journalist working for the French newspaper La Marseillaise up until his death in 1870. He was just 22 when he died.

Despite his fairly standard career, Noir ended up being killed by Prince Pierre Bonaparte, a cousin of Napoleon III -who was ruling at the time. The prince had taken offence to La Marseillaise ‘s views of his family and had challenged the editor to a duel.

Noir was sent as a second to arrange a time and place for the confrontation but during the exchange a fight broke out and Bonaparte shot Noir dead.

Public outrage followed the death, especially as Pierre Bonaparte was acquitted of murder. It even led to a number of violent demonstrations.

But this isn’t the reason why this ordinary man still has a constant stream of flowers at his graveside.

It’s more to do with the memorial itself.

Often dubbed ‘the sexiest tomb in the cemetery’, Victor Noir’s grave consists of a life-size sculpture of the man himself created by Jules Dalou.

The figure is lying flat on his back, with his coat open and his hat at the side of his feet. An odd artist choice by Dalou, is that Noir’s trousers are partially unbuttoned – something that could be responsible for the myths that now surround his grave.

It is said that women who visit the grave, put a flower in his hat and a kiss on his lips will find a husband within the year.

There is also the suggestion that the statue can bring fertility. Something many seemingly believe, as while the majority of the effigy is an oxidised shade of green, the metal at its lips, feet and trousers has been rubbed shiny.

Feeding into the idea of love and fertility, is the fact that Noir was engaged to be married at the time of his death.

The statue is now one of the most frequented in the graveyard, it even had a fence put around it 15 years ago to stop people people touching it. However, this was torn down due to supposed protests from the ‘female population’ of Paris.