Adolphe Sax and the Cimetière de Montmartre

I’m going to slip in a post from Paris because a few days ago it was Adolphe Sax’s 201st birthday (November 6, 1814). Sax is one of the many graves found in the vast necropolis that is the Cimetière de Montmartre. You could literally walk for days in the Cimetière and not see everything or find what you are looking for. We spent about a frustrating hour looking for Sax’s grave. In the end, it was a feral cat that led us to the small crypt.

Adolphe Sax

Born in Dinant, Belgium in 1814 as Antoine-Joseph Sax, Adolphe’s mother often lamented about the unfortunate and cursed life of her son. As a child, he faced several near-death experiences that included near-drowning, falling from a three-story building, poisoning (twice), an explosion, suffocation, falling into a frying pan, and swallowing a pin. His childhood nickname was “de kleine geest” or “the little ghost” because no one ever believed he would live to adulthood. Yet, despite all this misfortune, Sax lived to a hearty old age of 79.

Sax is most famous for… drumroll… inventing the saxophone. His parents were Belgian instrument makers who rarely deviated from their traditional designs; but, Adolphe liked to take risks and experiment. Throughout his life, he filed 14 patents for instruments that would eventually revolutionize horned/Big Band music. These included the bass clarinet, the Saxotromba, the Saxhorn, the Saxtuba, the clarinette-bourdon, and other instruments from the saxhorns family.

Adolphe was recognized for his work and as such taught at the Paris Conservatoire. Despite all of his success, however, he died in poverty in 1894 thanks to several lawsuits filed against him by rival musical instrument makers.

All the Other Graves at the Cimetière

There are so many famous people buried at the Cimetière de Montmartre; books have been written about all of these people. It is interesting to simply wander and look at the impressive graveside sculptures… these are just as interesting as the people buried under them.

One thing to note, some of France’s “National Heroes” who were buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre were exhumed and moved to the Panthéon (e.g. Émile Zola and parts of Jean Lannes).

2 comments on “Adolphe Sax and the Cimetière de MontmartreAdd yours →

  1. Very interesting. I’ve been trying to find the location of his grave. Any locational advice you can share? Thank you.

    1. Take this with a grain of salt because it was a long time ago… I seem to remember his grave being along the outside of the cemetery and on the right. So… you are under the overpass/covered grave area, face the main graveyard, veer right and follow the pathway closest to the wall. I do remember there being a lot of cats around his grave.

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