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"Les Catacombes" Catacombs Tip by Pieter11

Catacombs, Paris: 55 reviews and 101 photos

  "Stop, this is the empire of death"
by Pieter11
  • "Stop, this is the empire of death" - Paris
      "Stop, this is the empire of death"
    by Pieter11
  • Walls of bones in the Catacombes - Paris
      Walls of bones in the Catacombes
    by Pieter11
  • Tunnels in the Catacombes - Paris
      Tunnels in the Catacombes
    by Pieter11
  • Bones from "Cimetiere des Innocents" at Les Halles - Paris
      Bones from "Cimetiere des Innocents" at Les Halles
    by Pieter11

When the Romans came to Paris, a long time ago, they needed rock to built their houses and other constructions with. They searched in the area where they first settled: at the southbank of the Seine-river. Here they dug kilometres of tunnels to get as many rocks out as possible. After the Roman period almost all the buildings (except the Arènes de Lutèce) were covered or destroyed, but the tunnels stayed.

For many centuries these tunnels were more or less abandoned, until the plaque-epidemic broke out in the Medievals. Millions of Parisians died in a short time and after a while all the cemetaries in the city were full with dead bodies, sometimes even metres above the ground! Something had to be done, and then the Roman tunnels were remembered again.

In 1785 the huge work was started to move the millions of skeletons to the tunnels. The work was done in the night, not to shock all the people, and once the bones were inside they were perfectly organised to keep a structure in the tunnels and to save space.

In the tunnels signs were added to indicate where the bones originally came from, and at the beginning of the bone-collection a sign was made "Arrète! Ici c'est l'empire de la mort" meaning "Stop, this is the empire of death".

The tunnels were used for the last time during the Second World War, when the French Resistant had a base here.

Today the tunnels are opened for the public. It is possible to walk around the tunnels, in a route of 2 kilometres at a depth of about 20 metres. Be prepared that the tunnels are dark, cold and wet, and of course that the millions of bones around you can be shocking.

Address: Place Denfert-Rochereau, 14e
Directions: Open Tuesday-Sunday 2-4 (also 9-11am at weekends) Metro Station: Denfert-Rochereau
Phone: +33 1 43 22 47 63

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Dec 13, 2006
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