Top 10 creepiest things about the Paris catacombs

There are plenty of questions about the Catacombs. What was it before? Why did we put all these bones here? Well imagine, there was a time when the Parisian cemeteries were overflowing. Taking the model of ancient sanctuaries, the authorities have therefore decided to unclog them by creating tombs in the old underground galleries of Paris. The first wave took place at the end of the 18th century, but others followed, until after the Second World War: the dead had to be stored somewhere.

1. Six million bones, anyway

And in fact much more. We are only talking about the part that can be visited, i.e. about 800 meters of galleries. The bones were transferred there in the 18th century, after the overcrowding of the Cemetery of the Innocents began to become so intense that the macabre exhalations and collapses could no longer be contained. Six million is still quite a lot.

2. Their size far exceeds the visitable part

1.7 km visitable; it is barely 0.5% of the total surface of the catacombs located under Paris. There are therefore nearly 300 km of underground networks in Paris in which many corpses have been stored, but not only. Certain parts of these networks are regularly visited by cataphiles; others still remain relatively unknown.

3. Romantic gothic ambiance

At the entrance to the ossuary, a warning in alexandrines: “Stop! This is the empire of death. Quotations of the genre galore, on all sides. And above all bone sculptures, like this rotunda tes tibias made up, as its name suggests, of tibias. There are also consolidations transformed into altars to carry out mortuary ceremonies in the old-fashioned way and above all in the good. Faintness.

4. People bathe in it

On the one hand, there are fountains, such as the Samaritaine fountain, built in 1810 to collect water from the water table. The fountain has also been called the source of oblivion in a morbid-antique delirium. And then there are also kinds of small oases, natural pools where some cataphiles come to bathe.

5. During the Occupation, the catacombs did not take sides

Obviously, the resistance fighters had a field day: they could hide underground and store equipment away from Nazi eyes; but the Nazis also used the network. They built bunkers there, notably under the Lycée Montaigne, as well as several warehouses for weapons and food.

6. A clandestine concert took place there in 1897

In April 1897, prominent personalities in Paris received a ticket inviting them to present themselves in front of the entrance to the ossuary at 11 o’clock in the evening. The types introduce themselves and are entitled to a performance of gloomy music (Danse Macabre and Marches funèbres) performed by the musicians of the opera. Nothing had of course been authorized. The concert will hit the headlines for several days.

7. Stars are found in the Catacombs

Even if it is impossible to identify them. We know that the corpses of Rabelais, Blaise Pascal, Racine, Montesquieu, Charlotte Corday, Danton, Robespierre and Camille Desmoulins are piled up there. But it has become difficult to recognize them since sculptures have been made from shins.

8. People have settled there

In 2004, the cops made an amusing discovery: a fully equipped movie theater, with a clandestine bar, a telephone, everything. That’s not the only oddity found around the premises. Cataphiles often arrange rooms where they spend several days in hammocks. In addition, thieves used the catacombs to dig a tunnel leading to a renowned cellar in 2017 and managed to steal 250,000 euros worth of bottles of pinard.

9. Since 1980, the catacombs have had a dedicated police brigade

To combat the development of cataphilia, a national police brigade was created. It has been patrolling the Catacombs since 1980 and issuing fines, usually 60 euros. If ever access to the catacombs was made from an SNCF platform, the fine can reach 3600 euros.

10. In the 19th century, clever people used tunnels to grow mushrooms

Button mushrooms, of course. The practice was then moved to the mushroom farms of the Montmorency forest, a visit to which is also worth the detour. Today button mushrooms are imported from Holland. The world is something, huh.

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