A Death By A Thousand Kisses, The Grave Of Oscar Wilde is Saved

Related Articles

Related Articles

Oscar Wilde : Image Source Wiki Commons

For over 100 year his grave has been a Mecca for admirers of the Irish playwright and author who wish to honor and remember this remarkable man.

However these devotees who have smothered Oscar Wilde’s grave with kisses have contributed to its near destruction.  Action by both the Irish and French authorities will ensure that fans will no longer be able to get so close to the stone memorial as lipstick marks are eroding it.


Oscar Wilde's Grave : Wiki Commons

It’s been a long standing tradition for fans especially women have visit the memorial to Wilde in Paris’s largest cemetery Pére Lachaise to pay their respects

But an expression of love for the unconventional playwright has resulted over in thousands of red lipstick kisses and graffiti messages covering the bottom half of the tomb.  The memorial, a sculpture of a modernist angel designed by Sir Jacob Epstein, is covered with graffiti and parts of the stone have been knocked off.  Kissing the grave of the creator of The Importance of Being Earnest has become a cult pastime and the tomb is a regular stop-off for tourists on the trail around the French capital.

However this damage will now be cleaned and restored thanks to donations from the Irish authorities.

Mr Hayes an Irish government minster visited Père Lachaise cemetery yesterday to confirm that the Office of Public Works would provide funding for the restoration of Oscar Wilde’s grave.. The restoration project will involve cleaning the grave and surrounding it with glass joined by four bronze pillars.

The Irish State was approached about the restoration by the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris and Merlin Holland, Wilde’s grandson. Sheila
Pratschke, the director of the centre, said the project team wanted it to be as simple and as unobtrusive as possible.

“It has been Mr Holland’s dream to have it cleaned, restored and respected,” Ms Pratschke said. “I think it will look magnificent when it’s cleaned.” Wilde’s grandson Merlin Holland had repeatedly appealed to the public to leave the grave alone, but to no avail. He said there was a £7,700 fine for anyone caught defacing the tomb but recognised culprits were largely tourists who left the country before police were able to track them down.  He said grease in lipstick absorbs into the stone and every time it is cleaned more stone is eroded.

He said: ‘From a technical point of view, the tomb is close to being irreparably damaged.  ‘Each cleaning has rendered the stone more porous necessitating a yet more drastic cleaning.’

The lipstick on the grave stone of Wilde

Mr Hayes called the State’s involvement a small but very important gesture. “We have a responsibility to the great Irish writers, no matter where they are in the world, and we have a responsibility to their memory.”

The public will no longer be able to get so close when the glass barrier is erected.  It’s planned that the finish work will be completed on Wednesday on the anniversary of Wilde’s death

Oxford-educated Wilde wrote a number of critically acclaimed plays including The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Windermere’s Fan, as well as A Woman of No Importance and an Ideal Husband.

Wilde died of cerebral meningitis on 30 November 1900.  Wilde was initially buried in the Cimetière de Bagneux outside Paris.  His original burial was a pauper’s paid for by one by his friends as he died bankrupt following a spell in prison after his homosexuality was revealed. However in 1909 his remains were disinterred to Père Lachaise Cemetery, inside the city paid for friend Robert Ross

His tomb was designed by Sir Jacob Epsteincommissioned by Ross and cost over £2000 but was paid for by another friend Helen Carew.  Ross asked for a small compartment to be made for his own ashes which were duly transferred in 1950.

The modernist angel which is the focal point on the stone is depicted as a relief on the tomb was originally complete with male genitalia which have since been vandalised; their current whereabouts are unknown. In 2000, Leon Johnson, a multimedia artist, installed a silver prosthesis to replace them.

HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic


Camulodunum – The First Capital of Britannia

Camulodunum was a Roman city and the first capital of the Roman province of Britannia, in what is now the present-day city of Colchester in Essex, England.

African Crocodiles Lived in Spain Six Million Years Ago

Millions of years ago, several species of crocodiles of different genera and characteristics inhabited Europe and sometimes even coexisted.

Bat-Winged Dinosaurs That Could Glide

Despite having bat-like wings, two small dinosaurs, Yi and Ambopteryx, struggled to fly, only managing to glide clumsily between the trees where they lived, according to a new study led by an international team of researchers, including McGill University Professor Hans Larsson.

Ancient Maya Built Sophisticated Water Filters

Ancient Maya in the once-bustling city of Tikal built sophisticated water filters using natural materials they imported from miles away, according to the University of Cincinnati.

New Clues Revealed About Clovis People

There is much debate surrounding the age of the Clovis - a prehistoric culture named for stone tools found near Clovis, New Mexico in the early 1930s - who once occupied North America during the end of the last Ice Age.

Cognitive Elements of Language Have Existed for 40 Million Years

Humans are not the only beings that can identify rules in complex language-like constructions - monkeys and great apes can do so, too, a study at the University of Zurich has shown.

Bronze Age Herders Were Less Mobile Than Previously Thought

Bronze Age pastoralists in what is now southern Russia apparently covered shorter distances than previously thought.

Legio IX Hispana – The Lost Roman Legion

One of the most debated mysteries from the Roman period involves the disappearance of the Legio IX Hispana, a legion of the Imperial Roman Army that supposedly vanished sometime after AD 120.

Popular stories

Legio IX Hispana – The Lost Roman Legion

One of the most debated mysteries from the Roman period involves the disappearance of the Legio IX Hispana, a legion of the Imperial Roman Army that supposedly vanished sometime after AD 120.

The Secret Hellfire Club and the Hellfire Caves

The Hellfire Club was an exclusive membership-based organisation for high-society rakes, that was first founded in London in 1718, by Philip, Duke of Wharton, and several of society's elites.

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.

Matthew Hopkins – The Real Witch-Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an infamous witch-hunter during the 17th century, who published “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647, and whose witch-hunting methods were applied during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts.