The Paris Catacombs, visit Paris underground quarries

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Published by My B., Elodie D., Laurent P. · Photos by Elodie D. · Published on 1 August 2022 at 11h48
Have you ever ventured to the Paris Catacombs? No, we neither, before a rather pleasant guided tour! This place known by everyone is, let’s just say it, quite freaky, we all picture skulls, looking at us, aligned and making us fear for our lives. After a visit, we can tell you that the Paris Catacombs are not this scary, and we even rediscovered a forgotten part of Paris History, fascinating!

Okay friends, let us start with not getting the Paris Catacombs (near Denfert-Rochereau) and the Paris Crypt (Gallo-Roman remnants underneath the Notre-Dame de Paris) mixed up! The Paris Catacombs are the mystical place that worries as much as it fascinates with its hundreds of skulls.

Who are the dead of the Paris Catacombs? What to visit in the Catacombs? How to dress to visit this venue? From what age can one visit it? Let us try and answer these questions.

But let us get back to it. 20 meters underground, quarries contain one of Paris strangest’ cemeteries. The latter, constructed in 1800 and covering 11,000 sqm, gathers all the bones coming from cemeteries closed for being a source of infection, including the Cimetière des Innocents, a graveyard located in Halles neighborhood that contaminated soils; by the order of the King, in April 1777, bodies and bones were moved to the underground quarries, the Paris Catacombs!

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Instead of becoming a mass grave, this ossuary will become the Empire of the Death (or Empire de la Mort in French), through a fascinating (disturbing?) presentation designed in 1809 by Héricart de Thury, the mass ossuary is created!

You have to climb down a spiral staircase to end in his out-of-time place: luckily, we arrive in a room to get psychologically prepared, explaining us how and why these thousands of skulls have been put underground, thoroughly placed along a 2-km course. Only a very tiny part of the Catacombs can be "legally" visited, although a lot of cataphiles enjoy getting a thrill by visiting them illegally. To visit the venue, think about getting a cardigan. You do not need boots but we recommend flat shoes. It would be such a shame to fall head first into human bones...

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The number of bones is impressive, and we even wonder if some hasn’t been added throughout time! Writings and quotes disturb us, and boards explain where the bones come from. We note this Lamartine’s quote: “Ainsi tout change, ainsi tout passe, ainsi nous-mêmes nous passions. Hélas ! sans laisser plus de trâce que cette barque où nous glissons sous cette mer ou tout s’efface”. [Thus, everything changes, everything passes, we ourselves pass. Alas! Without leaving a mark of this bark where we slide under this sea where everything fades away.]

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If the maze is philosophical and makes us think about our place in the world, it’s important to recall this ossuary has been created in a Christian Kingdom, which is visible thanks to the many maxims that warn non-believers.

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Who is resting in the Catacombs, then? Famous characters and unknown people. Note a 800-m-long corridor, the famous hall of bones, is home to Charles Perrault, Rabelais and even Racine.

Please note that the Paris Catacombs make you live Paris History with its new store, books about the story of the place as well as literary pieces inspired by the Catacombs and many side-merchandising about skulls, from the scented candle to the designer’s jewels!

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An experience we are not likely to forget any time soon! Do not forget to book online, it is compulsory. And allow €29 per adult including an audioguide and €5 per child aged 4 to 17 (available on location only).

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Practical information

Dates and Opening Time
Starts 2 August 2022

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    Location

    1, place Denfert-Rochereau
    75014 Paris 14

    Recommended age
    From 10 to 130 years old

    Official website
    www.catacombes.paris.fr

    Booking
    www.billetterie-parismusees.paris.fr

    More informations
    Du mardi au dimanche de 9h45 à 20h30, fermeture des caisses à 19h30.

    Fermeture tous les lundis et certains jours fériés : 1er janvier, 1er mai et 25 décembre.
    Les Catacombes sont ouvertes les jeudis de l'Ascension, ainsi que les 14 juillet, 15 août, 1er novembre et 11 novembre (sauf quand c'est un lundi)

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