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I've been to the Catacombs some years ago and it was a great adventure! Following some narrow tunnel for about 1 hour your are surrounded by darkness and thousands of skeletons ! You discover an unusual aspect of the history of Paris in an unconventional place.Emmanuelle B,
The Catacombs in Paris is a place like no other and can't be visited by faint heart ! In the long maze of dark galleries and narrow passages, visitors can see a tableau of death with bones arranged in a macabre display of high Romantic taste.
The name of ‘Catacombs’ was given to this ossuary in reference to the Catacombs of Rome, an ancient cemetery situated not far from the Appian Way. They form a veritable labyrinth beneath the very heart of Paris, and were created in the galleries of the former quarries whose stone was used to build the capital. The project started when the Cemetery of the Innocents (near Saint-Eustache, in the area of Les Halles) which had been in use for nearly ten centuries became a source of infection for the inhabitants of the locality. After numerous complaints, the Council of State decided in 1785, to prohibit further use of the Cemetery of the Innocents and to remove its contents.
Disused quarries were chosen to receive the remains; the City of Paris had by coincidence just completed a general inspection of the quarries, in order to strengthen the public highways undermined by them. Then, until 1814, the site received the remains from all the cemeteries of Paris.
The bones from several graveyards and churches in Paris undoubtedly include the remains of many famous names from previous centuries including, amongst others, the writers François Rabelais, Jean de La Fontaine and Charles Perrault, the sculptor François Girardon, the painter Simon Vouet, the architects Salomon de Brosse, Claude Perrault and also Jules Hardouin-Mansart.
During the Revolution, people were buried directly in the Catacombs and the remains of victims of the guillotine were transferred there from their original burial pits: Lavoisier, Madame Elisabeth, Camille and Lucile Desmoulins, Danton and Robespierre.
Since their creation, the Catacombs have aroused curiosity. In 1787, the Count d’Artois, the future Charles X, made the descent, along with Ladies of the Court. The following year a visit from Madame de Polignac and Madame de Guiche is mentioned. In 1814, Francis I, the Emperor of Austria living victoriously in Paris, visited them. In 1860, Napoleon III went down with his son.
The Paris Catacombs re-opened on June 14th 2005, after several months of closure for building work. The lighting has been adjusted, the vaults strengthened and the walls of bones put back.