The Catacombs of Paris


Useful Information

Location: Metro Denfert-Rochereau
Open: Tue-Fri 2-16, Sat-Sun 9-11 14-16.
Fee: Adults 33 FF, Children 22 FF.
Classification: Former quarries used as  catacombs.
Light: electric
Dimension: L=300,000m, T=11°C,
Guided tours: Ar=11,000m², D=60min., V=250,000/a [2008].
Photography:  
Accessibility:  
Bibliography:  
Address: Catacomb tours, 1 Place Denfert-Rochereau, 14th arrondissement, 75014 Paris, Tel: +33-1-43-22-47-63
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
Last update:$Date: 2014/07/21 08:08:54 $

History

 
60 B.C.first tunnes built as roman quarrys.
04-APR-1777Inspection Générale des Carrières created to survey the quarries of Paris, and to fortify the foundation to prevent fontis (collapses).
1785350 of these underground rock quarries were converted into subterranean mass graves.
19-JUN-1994catacombs opened to the public.
SEP-2009closed after human bones were scattered.

Description

Like most cities, at least in Europe, Paris has huge subterranean cavities, built in 2000 years of history for many purposes: quarries, religious hideout, beer cellars, subways and bunkers. Most of the excavations are located at the base of the three "mountains": Montparnasse, Montrouge and Montsouris. There are approximately 300km of galleries all together, not all of them are connected. The most extended connected system of tunnels is located under the 5th, 6th and 14th districts, and is about 100km long.

The name catacombs is derived from the usage as graves. (see  catacombs) This name is sometimes used for all the underground caverns of Paris, but the tourist spot, open to the public, are the graves. They do not really promote them to tourists, but they are open to the public.

At the end of the 18th century, the government began converting several subterranean rooms into mass graves. This was necessary to meet desperate overcrowding in the medieval cemeteries in the center of Paris, which also became a hygienic problem. From 1785 to 1786, in 15 months, millions of bones and rotting corpses were tranported from the unsanitary city cemetery in Les Halles to this place. It was a monumental project to transport the bones in huge carts at night across the city.

And here they are, in huge piles, arranged as crosses, as faces and in other different configurations. Above the door outside are the words (in French): Stop! This is the empire of death. This bone collection of 5 to 6 million people has 11,000m².

Just before the Revolution, Charles X threw wild parties in the catacombs. During World War II the French Resistance set up its headquarters here. Today modern troglodytes (cave dwellers) again have parties in the underground. There are raves and restaurants, and of course all kind of subculture you may imagine. For example La Mexicaine de Perforation, an artistic movement with the intention to improve Paris by illegal occupation and restoration. Regular patrol of the police is futile, as there are virtually hundreds of kilometers of underground tunnels, nevertheless there is a special Catacombs police, colloquially called cataflics.

The government has restricted the visit of the catacombs because of security reasons. Probably both, security of the visitors and security of the catacombs and the city above. And actually there are downsides to the public interests in the catacombs and a quarter million visitors per year: in 2009 the bones piled orderly in stacks were vandalized. Bones and skulls were scattered along the walking paths. As a result the catacombs were closed to the public indefinitely and an investigation opened by the Paris prosecutor's office.


See also


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