Catacombs of Paris.  in Paris, France

Catacombs of Paris

in Paris, France

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Catacombs of Paris

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The Catacombs of Paris is an extensive network of ossuaries (sites for skeletal remains) underneath the city holding the remains of an estimated six million people.


The catacombs of Paris were created in the late 18th century, when the city’s cemeteries were becoming overpopulated and effecting the health of the living. The cemeteries contaminated the drinking water, and by 1785, so many citizens were becoming ill that the Council of State decided that the oldest cemeteries of Paris would have to close and have their contents removed. The remains would be displaced into old quarries which the city recently inspected and reinforced for the stability of roads and buildings overhead. By creating staircases and wells for the bones to be thrown down, the quarries were a perfect solution to the city’s problem. The catacombs were blessed and consecrated in 1786 which allowed the process of transferring the bones to begin. Priests were present during the process, singing and performing rites every night. The catacombs continued to receive remains from all over Paris until 1814.

It was four years before completion, in 1810 under Louis-Étienne Héricart de Thury (Wikipedia Article), that the catacombs were given its iconic design. Femurs and skulls were separated and placed into patterns of the walls of walkways, and monuments were made throughout the catacombs honoring the dead and offering advice to the living.
Since the early 19th century, few changes have been made to the catacombs. Modern lights have been added throughout the ossuaries for the visitors’ benefit, and repairs have been made after acts of vandalism.

Visiting the Catacombs

The catacombs are open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM, excluding Mondays and public holidays. The last admission is at 4 PM. During the summer when Paris is full of tourists, you should expect a long line for the catacombs (especially since only 200 visitors are allowed within the catacombs at any given time). There is a small green building where you purchase tickets, and the queue is outside along the street. Tickets must be purchased on site and there are audio guides available for €3 ($3.45). Prices for admission are €8 ($9.20) for adults, €4 ($4.60) for ages 14-26 (with ID), and free for people under 13 or disabled persons. There are also rates for groups between ten and twenty people which must be booked in advance.

To enter the catacombs, you first descend a winding staircase of some 130 steps and then through a long empty walkway before reaching the actual ossuaries. It is important to note that there are no bathrooms, elevators, or coatroom facilities once you enter the catacombs. Be aware that there are cramp and dark places once you enter, but there are light fixtures on the floor and walls. Taking pictures is encouraged, but make sure to check your images if using a digital device—your flash settings may need to be adjusted in order to see your image! The catacombs have been vandalized in recent years and security has increased. Upon exiting, there is a security check and they can check your bag for stolen artifacts. It is very important for the preservation of the catacombs that you stay on marked paths and do not touch any the bones or monuments.

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Author: workwoman. Last updated: Jul 01, 2017

Pictures of Catacombs of Paris

Catacombs of Paris - Catacombs of Paris
Catacombs of Paris - Photo by Bert Kaufmann


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