A large number of reefs within the inner granitic islands of the archipelago of Seychelles could be entirely lost, unless concerted action is taken soon to control crown of thorns, warns Dr. Udo Englhardt, the expert on on the management of crown of thorns in a...
The Bel Air Cemetery
The Bel Air Cemetery, undoubtedly the oldest historic site in Seychelles, was the first official burial ground to be opened on Mahe soon after the establishment of the French settlement in the late 18th century. The cemetery is important for the people of France and La Reunion as many of the tombs in the cemetery contain the remains of early settlers from these two nations. There was a great landslide of 1862 in the area which covered parts of the cemetery. The nicest headstones and family mausoleums from the 18th and 19th centuries may be found upon the hill.
There is a free parking lot across the street, but there are also a few spots directly in front of the cemetery. There is also a bus stop just in front of the building.
Some of the remains found in the Bel Air Cemetery
Important historical milestones, the cemetery’s tombs, vaults and shrines contain the remains of some of the islands’ most famous personalities such as corsair Jean-Francois Hodoul and the 9 ft giant Charles Dorothee Savy, poisoned at the age of 14 by neighbours fearful of his height.
Another mysterious person whose remains lie within the cemetery is Pierre-Louis Poiret, claimed by some to be the son of Louis XVI who fled the French Revolution and took refuge in Seychelles. It is also a final resting place of a son-in-law of Queau de Quinssy, a magistrate, an acting civil commissioner and a district magistrate who lie among other recently rediscovered graves once covered by the great landslide of 1862.
La Réunion, is an island in the Indian Ocean that is an overseas department and region of France. It holds the status of a region of France, and is an integral part of the French Republic.
Restoration of Bel Air Cemetery
Today, the rubble of broken tombs, dilapidated vaults, and rusted wrought-iron crosses constitute precious fragments of Seychelles history. The cemetery requires a lot of restoration work to see who has been buried there. La Reunion being a relatively richer country than Seychelles has agreed to provide not only their expertise in the restoration of the tombs, but they will also work to fence in the cemetery to ensure that the place is more secure.
Seychelles considers this cemetery as a national monument. Many islanders perform “craz maloya“ (Maloya dance) on 20th of December, in remembrance of their ancestors. Some will also pay tribute to Father Lafosse in the cemetery.
History of Bel Air Cemetery
A young priest named Father Lafosse was sent from Paris to the parish of South Island in 1775. During the Revolution, he took up the cause of the “Sans-culottes” and became a strong supporter of “Friends of equality and freedom.” Landowners hated him. He sheltered in his parish 60 slaves who fought for the abolition of slavery. With the support of the people he was elected mayor of St. Louis in 1790, and then Deputy. For his participation in the great insurrection in the South in March 1798, he was arrested and sentenced to exile in India along with other slaves. But he never went there. Instead he went to France and returned to St. Louis in 1802. He resumed his fight for the abolition of slavery. He was assassinated near the sugar factory of Le Gol, fifteen years later.
Today, the tomb of Father Lafosse has become a place telling the full History of Slavery in Seychelles. Flowers are placed all year round and especially during the “Slavery abolition day” every Dec. 20. The Bel Air cemetery was declared a National Monument in 1985 and officially closed for burial in 1902.