Bel Air Cemetery is next to Saint-Louis Hill and is located in Seychelles.
Bel Air Cemetery has a length of 0.57 kilometres. The Bel Air Cemetery, undoubtedly the oldest historic site in Seychelles, was the first official burial ground to be opened on Mahé soon after the establishment of the French settlement in the late 18th century. 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 9ft giant Charles Dorothée Savy, poisoned at the age of 14 by neighbours fearful of his height. Another character whose remains lie within the cemetery is the mysterious 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 Quéau 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. The Bel Air cemetery has a legend that has been perniciously immortalised by Creole folklore. The cemetery is home to several vaults, including those of the first French inhabitants: the ancestors and ancestors of a large part of the Seychellois population today, who still bears their last names. The October 28 declaration at the Bel Air Cemetery by Madame Nassimah Dindar, the President of the General Council of La Reunion, in the presence of President Didier Robert, the President of the Regional Council of La Reunion, and H.E. Madame Genevieve Lancu, the French Ambassador to Seychelles, is set to see the General Council of La Reunion provide know-how and support for the restoration of the tombs at the Bel Air Cemetery in the outskirts of Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles. This show of support by La Reunion (a French overseas department in the Indian Ocean) follows the official visit just months ago in La Reunion by the Seychelles President, Mr. James Michel. “La Reunion will bring 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,” said Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture, when he addressed the gathering at the Bel Air Cemetery. In his endeavors to design a tailored program to rehabilitate and restore the Seychelles national monuments, Alain St.Ange, rallied his technocrats of the Culture and Heritage departments on a half-day tour of Seychelles’ prominent heritage sites listed as the country’s tourism attractions.
Accompanied by the French Ambassador to the Seychelles, Philippe Delacroix, Minister St.Ange’s first stop was at the 18th century tombs, vault and shrines of Seychelles’ oldest historic sites at Bel Air, which contain the remains of some of the islands’ most famous French personalities, namely Corsair Jean Francois Hodoul; Charles Dorothee Savy, the islands’ nine-foot giant; and the mysterious Pierre Louis Poiret; among many. Speaking with the Seychelles press, the French Ambassador to the Seychelles, Phillipe Delacroix, highlighted France’s attachment to the conservation of its heritage. “The tombs, vaults, and shrines are engraved with the names of French nationals from Marseilles and the La Reunion islands to which much importance is attached in their conservation. They also represent the close historical link that exists between Seychelles and France. They are supplementary assets to Seychelles and that of its tourism industry. This historic site can rightly fall into one of the Embassy’s bilateral projects to conserve Seychelles’ national monuments,” Ambassador Delacroix said.
Ambassador Delacroix has outlined his plan to design a common project together with the Ministry of Tourism and Culture to restore the damaged tombs, vaults, and shrines of the Bel Air 18th cemetery site.
This Bel Air cemetery was opened in the early 1780s. It was the first burial place to be opened after the creation of L’Etablissement du Roi by the French government. Today, the rubble of broken tombs, dilapidated vaults, and rusted wrought-iron crosses constitute precious fragments of the Seychelles history. Every December 20, the Reunion island celebrates the abolition of slavery.
For many islanders, it is an opportunity to “craz maloya“ (Maloya dance) in remembrance of ancestors. Some will also pay tribute to the Father Lafosse in Bel Air Cemetery in St. Louis.
A small cemetery with graves and modest colors. A walk like a journey through the history of southern of the Reunion island. And along the alleys, few names on the crosses. And because they are slaves who rest here, as objects of private identity. At the entrance, a clay plaque recalls that, for more than forty years, Father Lafosse preached for the liberation of black people from the parish of Saint Louis.
In 1775, the young priest was sent from Paris to the parish of South Island. Immediately, he nourrishes abolitionist convictions. 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. Thanks to the support of the people and sixty slaves that he was protecting his parish, he was elected mayor of St. Louis in 1790, and then Deputy. Altercations therefore multiplied between supporters and critics of the Father Lafosse. They would lead to the great insurrection in the South in March 1798. For a month, Lafosse, Belleville and men fought before disarm. Among insurgents arrested and sentenced to exile in India, the father Lafosse. He never went there, stopping the Seychelles before joining 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. The legend says that the slaves would then buried his body in the abandoned cemetery where they buried more or less secretly their sibliings. Today, the tomb of Father Lafosse has become a place full of History of Slavery, flowers all year round and especially during the “Slavery abolition day” every Dec. 20. The Bel Air cemetery was officially closed in1902. It was declared a National Monument in 1985