Catacombes de Paris – The City of Light's Dark Underworld

Paris Catacombs

Located in the southern part of the French capital, particularly beneath the 5th, 6th, 14th, and 15th arrondissements, the Catacombs of Paris is a network of underground galleries. This network, carved from limestone, is thought to be 300 kilometers (200 miles) long. The limited area open to the public consists of interconnected subterranean tunnels neatly lined with the remains of almost 6 million corpses. Every year, more than 500,000 people visit this famous and fascinating attraction.

In my mind, Europe and history are inseparable. Therefore, I enjoy visiting unusual European sites such as the Underground of Naples or the Catacombs of Paris because they are not only visually appealing but also historically significant. I found it fascinating to delve deep beneath Paris' Metro lines to explore the City of Light's darker side.



The Catacombs of Paris is a must-see museum in France's capital that you should not miss while in the city. However, the excursion is not suitable for people with limited mobility, pregnant women, and those with claustrophobia. Visitors can expect to spend at least 45 minutes to an hour 20 meters (66 feet) beneath the buildings and streets of Paris to explore the Catacombs' 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) of winding passageways.

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Paris Map


The Catacombs: A Brief History


During the Roman Lutetia period (52 BC–486 AD), residents of Lutetia, the precursor of modern-day Paris, built their homes out of local limestone. This stone later served as the foundation for much of the city. By the late 18th century, Paris had grown into a major European center, and it eventually faced a big problem: due to population growth, wars, and epidemics, the city's cemeteries had degenerated into overflowing and unsanitary messes. As a result, some of Paris's former limestone mines became a municipal ossuary known as the 'catacombs.' There are now 17 cemeteries in the Paris Catacombs, the world's largest Necropolis, which houses more than six million remains.


Port-Mahon Corridor


The Port-Mahon Corridor is a small room off the tunnel that houses sculptures created by a quarryman named Décure, who fought in Louis XIV's armies. He worked with ordinary quarryman's equipment. In the main work, Décure depicts the fortress of Port-Mahon on Minorca, where he is said to have spent several years imprisoned. There are also his sculptures depicting Port Philipe and the Quartier de Cazerne.



Quarryman's Footpath


The "Quarrymen's Footbath" has a long history dating back hundreds of years. It is crystal-clear groundwater discovered by quarry workers and later used to mix cement and wash up after work when converting quarries into catacombs.


Ossuary


The Ossuary is the final resting place for millions of Parisians. Black and white stone pillars frame the entryway, and a sign proclaims, "This is the Empire of Death!" Along the length of this area, there are piles of bones and skulls arranged in symmetrical patterns. The Crypt of Passions, a barrel-shaped stack adorned with skeletal remains, is the Ossuary's most intriguing element.


Paris Catacombs in Picture

Catacombes de Paris
The narrow tunnel

Paris Catacombs
The fortress of Port-Mahon, beautifully carved by Décure

Paris Catacombs
The Quarrymen's Footbath water well

Paris Catacombs
Plaster cast of the fossil Campanile giganteum

Paris Catacombs
The Sacellum Crypt

Paris Catacombs
Wall of skulls and long bones

A la mort, on laisse tout
"At death, we leave everything."

How to Get There


The Catacombs of Paris has an entrance on Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy. You'll exit about 550 meters (0.34 miles) south on Avenue René-Coty.

Address: 1 Av. du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014 Paris, France


By Public Transportation

Metro (lines 4, 6): Denfert-Rochereau
Bus (line 38): Denfert-Rochereau
Train (line B): Denfert-Rochereau


Skip-the-Line Paris Catacombs Special Access Tour


Take the Skip-the-Line Paris Catacombs Special Access Tour if you want to skip the entrance lines, head inside the dark underworld of the Paris Catacombs with an expert guide, and gain special access to its chapels and chambers closed to the general public. Enjoy!


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