Bones underneath Paris streets

Bones and sculls arranged in a decorative pattern in the underground network of Les Catacombes in Paris France.
Vintage Fashion at the Kloffie Market

Museum

Bones underneath
Paris streets

Patrick | Monday, November 26, 2018

Address

Entrance Les Catacombes
1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy
75014 Paris
France
Map: Les Catacombes

Exit Les Catacombes
36 Rue Rémy Dumoncel
75014 Paris
France
Map: Exit Les Catacombes


Contact


Opening times

Tue - Sun 10:00 - 20:30
Last admissions: 19:30


Just beneath the heart of Paris, there is a world of underground most of us would not expect; it's called Les Catacombes. Approximately 20 meters under the ground there is a vast network of tunnels that have been made, to extract the limestone needed to build mega-projects for that time like the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Louvre and city walls. Nowadays we can visit a small part of the network.

In the late 18th century Paris arrived at a point that its cemeteries like "Les Innocents" and many more got over-populated. The cemeteries were so stuffed with the dead that it led to open graves, improper burials and unearthed corpses. All these rotten bodies became a health risk for its neighbours, that tried to live a normal existence. They started to get sick with infectious diseases because of the overloaded and unsafe cemeteries.

The solution was simple, with all the empty quarries there was enough space to move the remains of around 6 million Parisians out of the cemeteries and into the tunnels beneath the city. This was done by police and priest between 1787 and 1814.


In the overloaded cemeteries, there were some prominent Parisians buried. It is expected that the bones of these famous people were transferred to the Catacombs. For example; Charles Perrault (writer of Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella), Simon Vouet (painter) and Salomon de Brosse (architect that designed Luxemburg Palace in Paris). During the French revolution, many victims of war and the guillotine were buried directly in the Catacombs - for Example; Soldiers of the Swiss Guard that were killed during the storming of the Tuileries Palace, Madam Elisabeth, Danton and Robespierre.

Today we can visit a small part of the Catacombs the rest of it is just too unsafe. But because the network of tunnels is so vast, it's nearly impossible to keep people out of them. In 2004, Parisian Police that was exploring an uncharted part of the network came across a cinema screen and projection equipment. There were seats to sit on and a professional electrical installation. In the room, next door was a fully stocked bar and a restaurant. It sounds like the best cinema ever to me. There were cameras for security, and when the police came back a couple of days later to investigate more, the secret underground cinema and restaurant was removed.

Facts about Les Catacombs

  • In World War II Les Catacombs was used by both sides. The French resistance used the network of tunnels to hide from the Germans. The Germans built bunkers in Le Catacombs.
  • In the 19th century, Monsieur Chambery decided to grow mushrooms at in underground farm in Les Catacombs.
  • For there own enjoyment and adventure "the Cataphiles", a group of urban explorers, spend a vast amount of time down in Les Catacombs.
  • It is estimated that the total length of all the tunnels underneath Paris is 320km.
  • The bones of the dead Parisians are arranged in decorative patterns.

So if your up to see the underground world of Paris Les Catacombs will be an excellent excursion for you. Here is some practical information for your visit.

  • The length of the underground journey is about 2km and will take you about one hour.
  • A good thing to do is go to the toilet before entering. There are no toilet facilities at the premises.
  • Bring a small flashlight. You can have a better look at the spots you want to see.
  • It is a famous Paris attraction, and it is possible that you will have to wait to enter. Best is not to go in the high season or on French school holidays. Book tickets online before you go. Have a look at there website.
  • For safety reasons and damage to the remains, you are not allowed to enter Les Catacombes with your luggage, and I'm afraid they don't have a cloakroom. If you have a small backpack, it is allowed in, but hold it in your hand, not on your back.
  • Due to vandalism, there is a security check when you exit Les Catacombes, so don't take any of the bones. You will be prosecuted if they find anything on you that is not yours.
  • Be aware, the exit of Les Catacombs is not at the same place as the entrance.

Hope you will find Les Catacombs interesting and that you will have fun visiting it. Please let me know what your thought about the place by leaving a comment below. Thank you.


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