Remains of thousands
of Parisians lie deep within the Paris Catacombs ...
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.
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.
tunnels that compose the Paris Catacombs were originally part of a Gallo-Roman
quarry system that dates back to 60 B.C.
conversion to a depository for human remains began in the late 18th century, when
of the Innocents (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.
Famous photographer Felix Nader used the
Paris catacombs in his early experiments
artificial light in the mid-19th century.
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.
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.
to the Paris Catacombs
Main entrance: Place Denfert-Rochereau
2, 14th arrondissement
Paris Metro stop:
€ 7 regular admission,
€ 5,50 reduced price for seniors, teachers, and other qualified individuals),
€ 3,50 euro youth (14-26),
free under 13.
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