Les Catacombes

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For ten centuries, parishes put their dead in the ‘Cimetière des Innocents‘ (cemetery of Innocents), between the streets Berger and Saint Denis, close to the market of ‘Champereaux’.
In 1780, however, the walls of a cellar, along the cemetery, collapsed, due to the weight and the pressure of the thousands of corpses, producing and abhorrent liquid and smell. Then, the cemetery was temporary closed.
The underground in Paris was already a real « gruyere« (full of holes and tunnels), especially in this area, due to the exploitation of several carriers of stone, gypsum, and several coal mines.
The Parisian administration drew the blueprints of all underground excavations in the capital to find a place to transfer the overloaded cemetery. The place of the famous ‘Saint Anne‘ psychiatric hospital was choosen, and in 1786, the catacombs were established.

In the night, tipcarts veiled in black poured out their gloomy loads in a shaft of what is currently the René Cotty street, mixing kings, church men, and beggars.
The Convention ( the constitutional and legislative assembly established after the French Revolution) removed and banned all cemeteries within Paris. All the cemeteries in the capital were transfered to the catacombs.


During the Second World War, the catacombs were one of the French Resistance headquater, which was able to sucessfully build an « underground » communication network. With 300 km of tunnels, the space was perfect for escaping and hidding from the enemy.

An air conditionning system was installed in 1995, to prevent the growth of microscopic algae, and decrease the carbon dioxide rate in the galleries.
Today, the catacombs are a popular and touristic place with 160 000 visitors per year.

We access the Catacombs by a spiral staircase of 90 steps, bringing us 20 meters underground.
On the door, an inscription : « Arrête, c’est ici l’empire de la mort » (« Stop, this is the empire of the death »).
The door opens … you are in a gallery of 800 meters of bones.

The whole of Paris is a « gruyere » of 850 hectares of carreers, 1/12 the surface of the city, and crossed by 300 km of galleries.
These galleries, normaly banned from all visits, are nowdays frequented by some young and curious people, the « cataphiles« , who enter this huge, mysterious, and attrative space of liberty, by shafts, or by the sewers.

Nevertheless, only studdents of the high school « Ecole des mines » can legaly penetrate each year into this place, to celebrate « Sainte Barbe »,
patron of firemen and public works, to organize their initiation.


Access :

Catacombs museum :
1 place Denfer-Rochereau (XIV eme)
Hours :
From tuesday to friday, from 14h to 16h,
Saturday and sunday, from 9h to 11h and 14h to 16h.
5 euros

References :

Man Gets Lost in the Catacombs of Paris Part 1 of 2

story: Beneath Paris there are hundreds of old tunnels that were once a limestone mine. Later, in the 18th century, the cemeteries in Paris became so This is one of the most amazing videos I’ve ever seen. Here’s the story: Beneath Paris there are hundreds of old tunnels that were once a limestone mine. Later, in the 18th century, the cemeteries in Paris became so overstocked with corpses that the bodies would no longer decompose. The stench and disease forced the government to empty the cemeteries. The human remains had to be put somewhere so it was decided that they would be placed in the catacombs. As if the dark, dusty tunnels of the catacombs weren’t creepy enough, now the floors are littered with the bones of thousands of people.

2 commentaires sur “Les Catacombes”

  1. BOYER SABRINA dit :


    je suis trés intérésser par l’histoire des catacombes et j’aimerai savoir s’il est possible de venir les visiter en groupe
    étant en bts je suis en train de faire un dossier sur cette magnifique histoire et j’aimerai organiser une sortie avec ma classe pour leur faire connaitre tous ce qui si est passé
    je vous remercie d’avance de bien vouloir répondre a ma requête
    bonne journée

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