What was notable about Molière’s burial?

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At least two things were notable about the burial of Molière. The first was that, despite his criticism of the Church, he was permitted to be buried in a cemetery—a privilege not usually accorded to actors at the time. Molière was not only an actor and playwright; he actually collapsed while performing and died a few hours later. Several representatives of the Church argued that this absolutely prohibited his being buried on consecrated ground. However, Molière's widow, Armande, petitioned King Louis XIV, who permitted him to be buried in a section of the cemetery reserved for infants who had died without baptism.

In 1673, when Molière died, the King's gesture appeared generous. In 1792, however, as the French Revolution was raging, it did not. For the Revolutionaries, the mortal remains of one of the greatest geniuses of French literature had been shabbily treated by royalty and aristocracy. Molière's body was disinterred and brought to the Museum of French Monuments, where it remained throughout the First Republic and the Empire. Finally, in 1817, after the Bourbon Restoration, Molière was placed in the most famous cemetery in the world: Père Lachaise, in the twentieth arrondissement. Here, he was buried close to La Fontaine, and his neighbors now include Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, and Jim Morrison.

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