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"descend into darkness..." Catacombs Tip by Bagillbaer

Catacombs, Paris: 4 reviews and 7 photos


Favorite thing: descend into darkness *wooohooooooohoohooohoooo*
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Fondest memory: <DIV ALIGN=justify><P>
Paris - metropolis filled with life. But with a lot of people living there, there's also a lot of people dying and sooner or later, every large city has to face the problem: Where to put all those corpses?<BR>
In Paris, this question began pressing hard during the 18th century - the people were literally forced to get active in that matter: By then the biggest cemetery was 'Les Innocents'. Within 600 years it had grown to a 2,50 m high nuisance, spreading the smell of death all over the district.<BR>
Open lime pits, used as common graves for mostabout everybody, no matter of his class and origin, became a constant source of the dreaded Black Death - the pest.
The inhabitants of the neighbouring market quarter started complaining about it, so in 1786 King Louis XVI. decided to shut 'Les Innocents' down, and ordered to relocate the bones into the darkness of Paris' underground world...<BR>
As time went by, several other cemeteries were moved down into the 300 km long corridors and caves that the Romans built during their reign over the Gauls and the Parisii. This is how the Romans produced stone material for their constructions. <BR>
Unfortunately (or should one say 'stupid enough'?) they didn't prop the tunnels in those times. As a consequence, coaches and houses kept vanishing from the earth's surface. By filling the space up with dead people, this problem was more or less solved, but according to my guide book, you're still moving on unsteady ground when visiting Montmartre...<BR>
The tunnelwalls were layed with bricks and supported, and the tunnels not only filled with deceased, but also with about 2100 km of sewage, 183 km of metro-tubes, the gold treasure of the Banque de France plus the breeding facilities of the famous 'Champignons de Paris'.<BR>
But being tourists, we can't deny what found our greatest interest: millions of corpses (our guide books couldn't agree upon how many exactly there are, assertions go from 3 to 7 millions) - all of them neatly piled and sometimes even sickly, yet arty arranged, i.e. as crosses or a pyramid of skulls surrounded by thigh bones.<BR>
Debarking from the metro at Denfert Rochereau, you'd never suppose that you're near to the entrance of the Parisian underworld: all you see is two cuboid-shaped buildings on either side of the street, which once represented the tariff barrier of Paris in the 18th and 19th centuries. They didn't look very suspicious to us. Nevertheless, one of them holds the gates to the 'Realm of the Dead'...<BR>
Once you've paid about 27 FF entrance fee and passed the obligatory Parisian turnstile, you find yourself staring into a round hole in the ground, featuring a spiral staircase. <BR>
Which turns out to be very narrow and very *bzzzz* dizzy. After 91 steps roundanrounanroownwaw-oops you're almost ready to faint without even having reached the creepy part. At the end of the staircase you enter an anteroom, populated with pictures of the main attraction. To get you into the right mood, and help people to decide which way to go now, I guess. Back and up or *gulp* straight onwards into what could be hell or worse?<BR>
Of course we went on, and quite a long way too, through narrow, damp tunnels with a low ceiling. Street signs on the walls gave us an impression of the way we took while high above us normal life was going on, people working, cars passing, new lovers kissing and old lovers splitting... o.k., I'm getting kitschy, but I guess you know what I mean - we were in a different world!<BR>
Finally we came to a stone arch, with an inscription on top saying: 'Arrète, c'est ici l'empire des Morts' (so it was more or less like 'Hey, dude, think twice, you're about to enter an area that might contain unhealthy vibrations')<BR>
We thought about it, shivered and entered.<BR>
The next couple of hundreds of steps led us past rows and rows of piled up bones. A strange feeling came over us: It's not the sight of all those bones that's striking you with shock, it's the knowledge that behind every single skull there lies a destiny. And some destinies didn't even get their skull through... Victims of the plague, the cholera, executed revolutionists... - we even discovered a skull with a bullet hole in it.<BR>
If we had made use of a guide, we wouldn't have learned about all the famous personalities, that were laid to rest down here, only after our visit: Danton, Desmoulins, Robespierre, La Fontaine and Madame de Pompadou - all 'buried' in the catacombs of their hometown.<BR>
Somehow we couldn't shake the feeling off, that we were intruders in this place. Which provoked several strange undertones sounding somewhat like 'Pardon...' whenever we took a picture. But still we couldn't let the possibility pass to have some sick fun. The picture up there shows me (on the left) with my friend Cornelia, who wasn't that frightened as you'll see in one of the next photos...<BR>
Anyway, we weren't the first penetrators in these halls: during the German occupation in WW2 the opposing group 'Résistance' had its command centre placed inside the catacombs.<BR>
But sometime even the longest stroll (no matter if on earth or beneath) comes to an end - in this case naturally not without some more stairs - and we found ourselves to be two metro-stations away from where we had started our trip. Before we could finally step out into the sunlight again, we had to show the contents of our daypacks (obviously necessary, as several confiscated 'corpse souveniers' were already lying on the security guy's table).<BR>
I found this journey below very interesting and, well, beautiful. I liked the atmosphere. Maybe I'm sick *grins*. However, it was very impressing. Especially since I've read Anne Rice's novel 'The Vampire Lestat' in which the 'Cimetière des Innocents' is an important location. Sort of the vampires headquarters. Cool. Standing in front of the tombstone-like sign down there, with the inscription 'Les Innocents' was pretty eerie. Uulala...<BR>
I recommend it ;0><BR></DIV>

Review Helpfulness: 0.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Aug 24, 2002
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