Catacombes de Paris
René Descartes University
1, avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy (place Denfert-Rochereau), Paris
The Catacombs, which form a veritable labyrinth beneath the very heart of Paris, were created in the galleries of the former quarries whose stone was used to build the capital.
Situated twenty metres below ground, the ossuary contains the remains of approximately six million Parisians, transferred there gradually between the late eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries as graveyards were being closed because of the risk they posed to public health. The first of these was the cimetière des Innocents graveyard in 1786 in what is now the district of Les Halle.
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 alexandrine verse “Arrête, c’est ici l’empire de la mort” [Halt, this is the realm of Death ] above the entrance to the ossuary is just one of an extensive series of maxims, poems and other sacred and profane passages giving pause for thought during the tour. This unusual site movingly brings the history of the Parisian people back to life and takes visitors on a timeless journey.
click on the picture to open the gallery: