The Catacombs of Paris or “Catacombes de Paris” is a network of underground tunnels that hold the remains of over 6 million people. The network of tunnels is huge. 280 km (170 Miles) in all, only a very small portion is open to the public.
The Ossuary was created after Paris began to suffer two problems simultaneously. The Cemeteries were so over full that on one occasion a mass grave had collapsed a wall to a home that was adjacent to the cemetery, and there had been a series of cave ins along Paris’ Substantial network of tunnels.
|It took two years to transfer the bones from each of the cemeteries within the city starting in 1776. Bones would be transferred under the cover of darkness covered with a black veil. It is said that priests would accompany the procession singing along the way. After 1780 burials within the city limits were forbidden.|
The first incarnation of the Catacombs was a disorganized mess of bones.
It was at the hands of Louis-Étienne Héricart de Thury, director of the Paris Mine Inspection who would lay the foundation for what we know now as the Catacombs. Not only did he organize the decorating of the tunnels, but he had rooms created within the network to showcase different curiosities, one such room showing the various deformed bones they had found while creating the site.
He is also responsible for the various archways and plaques throughout displaying cryptic and grim messages warning people off including the famous lines C’EST İCİ L’EMPİRE DE LA MORT ( Stop! This is the empire of the Dead)
The Catacombs became a bit of an “underground” tourist attraction in the early 19th century with only the Wealthy and powerful being admitted. It has been open to the general public since 1874.
Often times people commonly known as Catophiles will descend illegally into the catacombs from various unauthorized and sometimes secret entrances for things like parties, or to create murals, and to explore the vast tunnels.
In 2004 the French police discovered a fully stocked movie theater and bar operated by a French arts movement called Les-UX
There have been many reports of various disappearances, people getting lost in the forbidden tunnels. Its even rumored to house the Gates Of Hell and is widely recognized as one of the most terrifying places in the world to visit. All of this mixed together drives the tourists to long lines, so it pays to purchase advance tickets to enter at a predestined time with a group. Descending into the depths of the Catacombs from the bright early morning city above was a bit like entering the twilight zone. Entering the land of the dead certainly is no exaggeration . I find myself taken aback at the sheer amount of bones that are just stacked in corridors discarded and forgotten. Our guide explained about the black line painted on the ceiling being the bread crumb trail for us to get back out and how people had often gotten lost. The melancholic beauty of it all certain was not lost on me, nor was the terror. To be lost among the dead wandering forever. What a terrifying fate.
whether or not you’re superstitious its certainly a macabre place to visit and a must see for anybody into the strange and wonderful