Often referred as an ossuary, the Catacombs have not possessed this title from the beginning of its time, as many would assume!
It was built as a quarry, whose stone was used to build the capital – Notre Dame, the bank of the Seine, those 37 bridges crossing Paris, the Conciergerie (prison), etc. were all built with very resistant stones from this quarry.
After a while the quarry had been closed and in the 18th century, health issues were on the daily agenda. In a time in which people were still afraid of water and dying of nowadays treatable diseases, the centimeters were overflowing and were being closed because of the risk they posed to public health.
This made King Louis XVI to order an inspection of the old quarry. In two years time they have moved remains from the Cemetery of the Innocents (also known as Holy Innocents’ Cemetery – the oldest and biggest graveyard in Paris) into the new ossuary.
Soon other cemeteries would follow and today bones from over 6 milions Parisians can be found 20 meters under the Earth surface.
There are funeral stones at every corner telling you from where these remains are coming:
Skulls with a small hole in their forehead can be seen as you get closer to the exit. Those people were shot in head. Other skulls have Russian letters written on them – those are people who died during one of the many revolutions happening in Paris.
During my visit in Paris I`ve caught some rumors about secret underground parties in the Catacombs. I have no idea if it`s true or not.
It might seem as a strange place to visit, but if you are seeking culture, this is a one time visit you need to make. It will tell you far more about Parisians than a selfie from Eiffel Tour would ever do!
TIPS: it`s close on Mondays. Try to be there early as there is a long line, maybe take a coffee and a snack with you.
Until next time, Paris might be always a good idea, but if you research it ahead, it`s gonna be the best idea! Jump the lights and dive into culture!
If you are ready to go in your next adventure in Paris be sure to check what are top 3 scams I`ve met on my last trip there and guard yourself against them!
All photographic credits from this post go to Cristian Ionut Virciu.
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