Amongst the grand tombs of the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris lie numerous notables but none is perhaps so unusual as that of Victor Noir.
Fans of Oscar Wilde leave kisses and cigarettes at the foot of his grand Pharaonic winged messenger grave, Poles leave flags and momentoes to classical composer Frederic Chopin while elsewhere rock music fans young and old alike clamber over neighbouring graves to pay their tribute to Doors frontman Jim Morrison.
Since it opened in 1804, the atmospheric Pere Lachaise cemetery has been the prestigious place to be remembered in the French capital. Playwright Moliere was reburied here and lays alongside chanteuse Edith Piaf, novelist Marcel Proust and legendary stage and screen actress Sarah Bernhardt.
But perhaps the most unusual is the tomb to 19th-century French journalist Victor Noir, whose grave portrays the exact moment of his demise in a life-size bronze statue – lying flat on its back with his top hat fallen at his feet.
Noir, real name Yvan Salmon, was killed by Prince Pierre Napoleon Bonaparte in 1870, after delivering a challenge to a duel on behalf of a fellow journalist. His shooting by the prince, a first cousin of the emperor Napoleon III, fuelled republican agitation in the final few months of the the Second Republic and tens of thousands turned out on the streets of Paris for his funeral.
His untimely death meant Noir was ensured a place in the French history books, but what was perhaps less predictable was his place in the annals of urban myth as a rather unexpected fertility symbol.
Due to its realistic style, Noir’s effigy has a rather prominent protuberance in his trousers and legend has it that a woman who places a flower in his hat and rubs this area will find a husband by the time the year is out. For any of those doubting the popularity of this myth, need only look at the gleaming bronze of the area shining out from the rest of the oxidised grave.
Many journalists go into the profession hoping to become a part of making history. It seems Noir has succeeded, albeit in a slightly unconventional manner.