Monday, May 4, 2009

The Catacombs of Paris

Map here.
Denfert-Rochereau Ossuary, or The Catacombs to the rest of us, was created underneath Paris because of necessity. Paris had been growing during the 1700s, and of course, where there is growth, there is death. The cemeteries had seen a steady increase in residents, (I've always said, "Be nice to the dead. They outnumber us by quite a bit.") and were overfilled. Due to bad burial practices and mass open graves, Death's companion, Pestilence, strode through the city with impunity. Much debate had gone on about what to do about the growing problem, and after lengthy consideration, it was decided to move the remains to the nearby empty limestone quarries and start some new cemeteries outside city limits.It has been estimated that there are at least 185 miles of tunnels in the whole network of catacombs, though we only walked through a small portion of them. Millions are interred in the old quarries, six million in the blocked-off area we walked through alone.
We walked for quite a while before we reached the area where the bones were kept. They were stacked like firewood, sometimes going back only a few yards, sometimes for many. There were skulls used as decoration, a counterpoint to the miles of femurs; hearts shaped from them, skull-and-crossbone designs.


The deeper we went, the cooler it got. Water, filtered through the limestone, dripped steadily and dropped on our heads. At times the ceilings were quite low, and I couldn't help but wonder what it must have been like to travel these tunnels without the electric light we enjoyed.

We also ran across several areas like this one. Places where the quarry workers had sculpted fanciful kingdoms out of the limestone. Flash photography is forbidden in the Catacombs, but unfortunately, boatloads of idiots ignore the rule as long as the guides aren't around. (I found this to be the case when I visited the Sistine Chapel, too. At least after all those priceless paintings are destroyed, we'll have plenty of poorly-taken, over-exposed snapshots of them.)
I'll leave you with several of the short video clips I took while I was there. Please excuse the quality. For more info on the Catacombs of Paris, click here.







6 comments:

  1. I've seen documentaries on this place. It staggers the mind.

    I bet you didn't enjoy yourself at all in there ;)

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  2. Fascinating post!! I didn't realize this existed.

    Regarding the flash photography, isn't it amazing that there are always people who believe they are exempt from the rules?

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  3. Very fricking cool, and thanks for the mention. :)

    It's just mind boggling... I'd love to see that and the Sedlec Ossuary in Czech. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sedlec_Ossuary

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  4. Thanks for sharing. These are amazing. It is great to see a haunters perspective!

    I missed this my last trip to Paris. I knew that I would regret it....now that I see your posts....Versailles was not the better choice :(

    Cheers!

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  5. These catacombs look fascinating. If I ever go to Paris I will need to visit them. Thanks for sharing your video clips!

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