The person providing the tour (and the key to the door) was none other than writer, journalist and broadcaster Michel Cardoze, known to many as a former TF1 weatherman but best-known to myself and my Bordeaux 2066 friends as the man who delivers “l’histoire du jour” every morning at 7:55am on Radio France Bleu Gironde. In his short monologues, Cardoze glides effortlessly through some of the most amazing tales from Bordeaux and beyond.
|A panoramic view of the cemetery.|
The plot still belongs to the Jewish consistory, but as Michel Cardoze points out, “is regularly tended to by the city of Bordeaux, with whom the relationship is very good”. Touring the graveyard, he is quick to underline one of the most curious features of the graves: many of the tombstone inscriptions include hearts and palm leaves! “We have no explanation as to why that should be. Theoretically, on Jewish graves there should be no signs or symbols, yet here these are recurring motifs.” Michel adds that many of those buried here were a blend of cultures and this may be sign of this: “The locally dominant culture, Christianity, penetrated many facets of these people’s lives. There were therefore many mixed marriages, and a lot of Jews concealed their origins while continuing to observe Jewish rites in private.” This cultural melting pot also explains why on many gravestones the year of death is often indicated as it was according to the Hebrew calendar alongside its Gregorian-calendar equivalent.
|Hearts, palm leaves, and sometimes both. Note the year of death according to both the Hebrew calendar (Elul 5523) and Gregorian equivalent (August 1763). You can check whether it's correct here.|
|Michel Cardoze inspects one of the Rabbi's graves, complete with dense Hebrew inscriptions.|
|Our VIP guide Michel Cardoze, Bordeaux 2066's Vincent and, yes, a gravestone.|
Pictured above are Rue David-Gradis, celebrating the trader and ship-owner who first acquired the land which became the cemetery; Rue Furtado, after Abraham Furtado, influential in the organisation of the consistory and deputy to the mayor of Bordeaux; Rue Rodrigues-Pereire, which celebrates a man who conceived an early form of sign-language for the deaf, and whose grandson Émile Péreire was one of those responsible for the railway line to Arcachon and the resort’s initial development; Château Peychotte in Mérignac, also known as the Maison Carrée; Cité "Château Raba" in Talence, harking back to a family of bankers; Parc and Château Peixotto in Talence.
All of the above, in their way, have become permanent and prominent fixtures in the public domain. Meanwhile, the Cours de la Marne cemetery remains far less visible, so what a privilege it was to visit it on that sunny December day.
- Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map:
- Cimetière des Juifs portugais, 105 Cours de la Marne, Bordeaux.
- Read the French-language version of this article on the Bordeaux 2066 website here.
- A big thank you to Michel Cardoze for taking the time out to meet Vincent, Pierre-Marie and myself and show us around the cemetery!
- Further reading: