Historic Site in Paris

Catacombs of Paris

Discover the Catacombs of Paris, an underground ossuary with corridors filled with the historical remains of millions.

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The Catacombs of Paris hold the remains of millions of Parisians transferred there in the 18th century due to overflowing cemeteries. This underground ossuary is extensive, with a network of tunnels and rooms lined with bones and skulls, providing an eerie yet historical look into the past. A visit to the Catacombs presents a unique perspective on the city's history and its innovative response to public health and urban challenges.

Accessing the Catacombs

To visit the Catacombs of Paris, you can enter through the official entrance located near Place Denfert-Rochereau. The underground network is vast, but only a small section is open to the public. It is recommended that visitors purchase tickets in advance due to the limited number of people allowed inside at one time. Keep in mind there are numerous steps to descend and ascend, as there is no elevator access.

Inside the Catacombs

Once inside, you'll walk through narrow corridors surrounded by neatly arranged bones and skulls. The walls of these underground passages are lined with the remains of millions of Parisians, providing a tangible connection to the history of the city. Some of the most famous areas within the Catacombs include the Crypt of the Passion, where you will find a barrel-shaped building made entirely of skulls and tibiae, and The Samaritan fountain, a well-crafted sculpture.

Visitor Guidelines and Etiquette

In order to preserve this historic site, there are guidelines that all visitors must follow. Photography is allowed but without the use of flash to protect the integrity of the bones. Touching the remains is strictly prohibited. Visitors are also encouraged to remain quiet and respectful throughout their journey underground, remembering that this is both a burial site and a historical monument.

Cultural Significance

The Catacombs have had a profound impact on Parisian culture and have been referenced in various literary works and films. The space itself often inspires a sense of reflection and examination of life and death. Beyond the initial reaction to the sheer number of human remains, visitors often feel a deeper connection to the past inhabitants of Paris.

Tips for a Smooth Visit

Due to the cool temperature and high humidity within the Catacombs, dressing appropriately is advised. Comfortable walking shoes are a must as the ground can be uneven and wet. The tour typically takes around 45 minutes to an hour, so plan accordingly. There are no restrooms or places to buy food or drink once you leave ground level, so prepare before your descent.

The Science Behind the Catacombs

The Catacombs were created in the limestone quarries underlying Paris. Ensuring safety while managing the existing geological features was paramount during their construction. Today, they serve as a unique record of Paris's geological history and urban development.

Exploring Further

While you're in the area, consider exploring other parts of Paris built on top of or out of these old quarries. Many buildings, including some famous landmarks, incorporate this limestone into their construction, subtly connecting the city above ground with its extensive subterranean counterpart.

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