If You Can't Go See The Paris Catacombs, These Photos Are The Next Best Thing

March 16, 2018

|Ariel Rodriguez
paris catacombs

Miles and miles of symmetrically arranged walls of corpses...

Paris is known as the most romantic city in the world. Tourists who visit it, usually find the capital of France as a beautiful metropolis. It’s one of Europe's major centers for finance, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts. The city is beloved by many for its iconic attractions: the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, to name a few. Yet, many don’t know that underneath the city’s streets there is an entire city of death.

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The Catacombes De Paris, which are about 200 miles of tunnels full of the remains of Parisians who died before the 17th century. Beneath the City of Lights, the bone-stacked walls tunnels are an attraction that some tourist miss or fear. If you haven’t been inside the cemetery maze, this collection of photos perfectly illustrates the mystery and reality hidden beneath the Parisian streets.

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Somewhere around the 17th century, the overpopulated city was saturated with corpses. Bodies wouldn't even fit in the oldest cemetery of Paris known as Les Innocents. Body parts would stick out of unfinished tombs and in some cases the diseases ones would be stacked on top of each other. In fact, the smell of death spread throughout the city making it inhabitable and forcing the authorities to do something about it. 

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Louis XV and his successor, Louis XVI, decided impose what seemed to be the most obvious solution to the conflict: the banning of all burials inside the capitol. But the Church refused this mandate. Then someone came up with the idea of using the already existing miles of escape tunnels to provide the deceased ones with a decent place to rest.

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It took 12 years for Paris workers to move about six billion bodies into the catacombs, and somewhere by the end of 1700s, the cemeteries of Paris were finally starting to be emptied out. When The French Revolution broke out, those who died went directly to the catacombs. It wasn’t until 1860, when official decided to stop placing the bodies under the city.

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Today, you can walk through the underworld of the catacombs as you observe the aesthetically arranged walls of bones and skulls. You can certainly pay for a tour guide, but it’s not necessary. The main entrance of the Catacombes De Paris is by Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy. If you like cold dark places with a historical background, the catacombs would be ideal to visit.

Ariel Rodriguez

Ariel Rodriguez

Creative Writer