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Les Catacombes

The Catacombs of Paris or Catacombes de Paris are underground ossuaries in Paris, France which hold the remains of about six million people in a small part of the ancient Mines of Paris tunnel network.

 

The ossuary was founded when city officials were faced with two simultaneous problems: a series of cave-ins starting in 1774 and overflowing cemeteries, particularly Saint Innocents. Nightly processions of bones from 1786 to 1788 transferred remains from cemeteries to the reenforced tunnels, and more remains were added in later years. The underground cemetery became a tourist attraction on a small scale from the early 19th century, and has been open to the public on a regular basis since 1874 with surface access from a building at Place Denfert-Rochereau.

 

Beyond begin the halls and caverns of walls of carefully arranged bones. Some of the arrangements are almost artistic in nature, such as a heart-shaped outline in one wall formed with skulls embedded in surrounding tibias; another is a round room whose central pillar is also a carefully created "keg" bone arrangement. Along the way one would find other "monuments" created in the years before catacomb renovations, such as a source-gathering fountain baptised "La Samaritaine" because of later-added engravings.