Almost out of a modern day Indiana Jones movie, the Catacombs of Paris will definitely be a new sight for many people. It consists of many underground tunnels that are supported with the bones of over six million people. The walls of the tunnels are lined with the bones, in an organized fashion, preventing the old tunnels from collapsing.
Originally these tunnels were simply a part of a limestone quarry on the outskirts of Paris at the time, which was in 1786, called Tombe-Issoire. They became a mass grave when the city’s largest cemetery, Les Innocents, had become overcrowded and started causing problems with the local inhabitants. Bodies were not buried properly and with a bit of rain the decomposing bodies were unearthed, emanating a horrible stench, causing people to fret of disease and unholy spirits. An edict was issued 1763 by Louis XV instructing no more burials to take place within the city, however, the church was not in agreement with Louis XV and thus did not do anything as they did not wish to desecrate the graves or move the cemeteries. Thus nothing could be done. It was only when a boundary wall of the cemetery collapsed, resulting in multiple decomposing bodies spilling out onto a neighboring piece of land that the authorities decided to finally do something. It was decided that the bones would be moved to the unstable quarry under nightfall to solve not only the overcrowding problem but also restore stability to the tunnels of the quarry. The quarry, Tombe-Issoire, was consecrated in 1786 and thus the job began. It took local authorities two years to move the excess bones. For decades after that bones were relocated to the catacombs from their original resting site in cemeteries around the city. It escalated, after the French Revolution, to resting the bones of the newly dead inside the catacombs. It was only in 1859 that the final bones were added, and the catacombs of Paris were complete by 1860. In 1867 the catacombs of Paris were finally opened for display to the public.
What originally lay underground the outskirts of Paris, the catacombs, today, run for hundreds of miles under the Capital itself, due to the city’s expansion over the years the catacombs are no longer on the outskirts but directly underneath. In 1955 it was made illegal to view most parts of the catacombs, thus today the tour is just under a mile long, taking an average of forty-five minutes to complete. However, this is not a tour for the faint hearted. The tour is not advisable to those with heart or respiratory issues nor do they encourage those who are of a highly nervous disposition. Of course, they also advise against the attendance of young children as it is seen as inappropriate. No children under the age of fourteen years are allowed to attend a tour without parental guidance. It is one-hundred and thirty steps to go down and eighty-three to come back up. Also, the average temperature below ground is fourteen degrees, so it might be handy to bring a jacket. Only two-hundred people are allowed into the catacombs at once.
TIMES AND PRICES
The price of admission depends on the tour, it costs 12€ for the expedition and 16€ to see the catacomb crypt. This destination is extremely different to all the other famous ones in Paris but it definitely one the top places to visit in Paris, a real archaeological phenomenon.