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Thrills & Chills of the Paris Catacombs


Bones & skulls piled high in the Paris catacombs
Remains of thousands of Parisians
lie deep within the Paris Catacombs ...


The entrance to the Catacombes de Paris is non-descript, tucked away in a patch of trees on the Place Denfert-Rochereau. I circled the square five times to find it, and when I finally arrived, it was so empty that I had to ask a guard if I was at the right place.

But once I got past the unassuming entrance and descended a seemingly endless flight of stairs, I found myself in another world. Skulls and bones lined the walls of the damp, dark tunnel system. At certain spots, there were elaborate patterns and designs; at others, large heaps of dust and bone.

The tunnels that compose the Paris Catacombs were originally part of a Gallo-Roman quarry system that dates back to 60 B.C.

Its conversion to a depository for human remains began in the late 18th century, when the Cemetery of the Innocent (le Cimetière des Saints-Innocents) in the district of Les Halles was condemned because it was found responsible for the spread of infection in the area.

Paris catacombs in the 19th century
Famous photographer Felix Nader used the
Paris catacombs in his early experiments
with artificial light in the mid-19th century.

All the buried were ordered removed, and the Council of State chose the unused quarries as their final resting place. The process of removal was lengthy and complex. Between 1786 and 1788, bones were carted from the cemetery to the catacombs each night, accompanied by a procession of priests who sang the burial service. Until 1814, it continued to be used as a depository for bones from the area's cemeteries.

Practically since its establishment, the Paris Catacombs have been a tourist attraction, drawing kings, queens and visiting dignitaries such as Charles X and Napoleon III. Now, a recently renovated museum and improved safety measures make a visit to the Catacombs a must for any tourist seeking a taste of the macabre side of Paris.

Getting to the Paris Catacombs

Main entrance:
Place Denfert-Rochereau 2, 14th arrondissement

Paris Metro stop:
Denfert-Rochereau

Admission:

  •  € 7 regular admission,

  •  € 5,50 reduced price for seniors, teachers, and other qualified individuals),

  •  € 3,50 euro youth (14-26),

  •  free under 13.

  • More information on the Paris Catacombs around the Web::


    Catacombs of Paris - The Official Site

    Paris Catacombs - National Geographic

    About the Author... Jessica Arriola Marati

     

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