Paris – the city of love, romance and skeletons: incredible facts about the catacombs under the streets of the French capital

Top 10: Scary facts about Paris catacombs

Cemeteries. There is something about them that makes the hairs on your head begin to move, and for many of us, cemeteries are some of the creepiest and most forbidden places on the planet. What could be scarier than a regular cemetery? What would you say about the one that contains the remains of millions of Parisians and is located right below the capital of France? Yes, that’s right.

For a city known for its love of fashion, romance and culture, Paris certainly hides a dark secret under its streets. These little-known facts about the vast catacombs of Paris will leave you utterly baffled.

10. The remains of more than six million Parisians are preserved here

In the 18th century, the cemeteries of the ever-growing city of Paris lacked space. As if that weren’t enough, some bodies weren’t buried properly and caused disease to spread. Eventually, Parisian officials decided to ban cemeteries from the city limits and move the remains that were there to another location.

Officials turned their attention to several underground quarries in the city. Between the 1780s and 1814, authorities were able to arrange for the transportation underground of more than six million bodies collected from all the cemeteries that existed in Paris, transporting the dead with carts and placing them in their final resting place.

9. They are bigger than you think.

Photo: Deror Avi

While the remains of six million people are scattered throughout the tunnels, most of them have been put into burial chambers known as ossuaries, where tours are often held. The point is that there are more tunnels in the catacombs. They were made by Parisian miners working in the quarry before some of the catacombs were used as a cemetery.

Although some 320 kilometers of tunnels are thought to exist, not all of them have been mapped, and the rest remain uncharted territory. This makes one wonder what else might be lurking in these tunnels.

8. Roamers have made the catacombs into a secret bathing spot

Photo: Messy Nessy Chic

Apparently, the idea of going to the local pool (or going to a friend who has a pool) isn’t satisfying enough for some people. Instead, they embark on a journey into the depths of the catacombs to refresh themselves in some secret, undiscovered body of water that has become known among other catacomb enthusiasts as makeshift pools.

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Of course, you’ll need connections to get there. They say you’ll also have to wade through murky waters and tunnels where you might get claustrophobic before you get to the “oasis,” which in this case is a pit of water located in a giant underground cemetery.

7. Unknown groups are doing strange things here

In 2004, police conducting a drill in the catacombs stumbled upon something completely unexpected. While exploring a remote area of the vast tunnel system, they discovered a giant fully equipped movie theater with a screen, everything they needed, a restaurant and a bar, with professionally installed phone lines and power lines. Even creepier was the fact that a hidden camera was taking pictures of the cops as they entered the hall.

No one knows who did it, but a note was left at the scene that said, “Don’t try to find us.” It’s probably not the best decoration for a movie theater and restaurant, but that space can be put to good use, too, right?

6. Corpse Flow

The most popular place in Paris where the dead were buried (before they decided to use catacombs for this purpose) was Les Innocents, the oldest and most frequently used city cemetery. However, there was one problem with it: as mentioned above, by the beginning of the XVIII century, so many people were buried there that it overflowed. People who lived in the neighborhood began to complain about the pungent smell of decay that spread throughout the city.

To say “was overcrowded” is an understatement, because when the cemetery flooded as a result of the flood, bodies began to rise from the ground to the surface. During the 1780s, people began exhuming bodies from all the old cemeteries and burying them there in what we now call catacombs, and the rest is history.

5. Cataphiles create communities inside the tunnels

Photo: Claire Narkissos

Cataphiles are a group of urban explorers who tend to spend huge amounts of time in the depths of catacombs for their own pleasure and quest for adventure. Although their name may sound like that of a modern cult, they have a deep respect for both the dead and the tunnels and create maps to keep people from getting lost in the vast necropolis.

They are insiders, and information on how to access the catacombs is kept within a close-knit group. Cataphiles have been building their own community inside the old quarries and tunnels for years. Some paint pictures here, decorate rooms, or have parties with other tunnel dwellers, and some visit them just to take a break from the outside world.

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4. Once upon a time, vintage wine was stolen here.

It turns out that in addition to bones, decay and death, there’s also some pretty good wine in the depths of the catacombs. At least that’s what happened in 2017.

A gang of French thieves drilled through the limestone walls of the catacombs and infiltrated a nearby vault that was under an apartment and contained about 300 bottles of vintage wine. The thieves escaped, taking all of the wine worth €250,000.

3. Bones assembled in “decorative displays”

Photo: Shadowgate

When the bones of the dead were first carted to the catacombs in the 1780s, they were simply left in the tunnels (after the priest said a prayer that the dead would rest in peace). Workers began stacking old bones into shapes and compositions such as hearts and circles, and lined the walls with skulls and various other gruesome remains.

One of the most iconic compositions is known as the Barrel. It consists of a large circular pole surrounded by skulls and tibia bones and serves as a simultaneous support for the ceiling of the room where it is located, which is called the Crypt of Passion or the Big Tibia Rotunda. The barrel is a little more repulsive than the traditional support, but if it serves its function, there is no question.

2. Farmers began using catacombs to grow mushrooms Photo: Messy Nessy Chic

This practice began in the 19th century, when a Parisian named Monsieur Chambery (Monsieur Chambery) dared to go down into the tunnels and saw a scattering of wild mushrooms growing in the underground. He decided to use the abandoned tunnels to grow his own champignons de Paris (aka mushrooms), which was eventually accepted and approved by the Horticultural Society of Paris.

Soon farmers from everywhere began to flock here to establish their own farms. Growing mushrooms in the catacombs became a thriving business venture. In fact, if you know where to look, you can probably find some farmers still growing soul mushrooms there. It makes sense, considering the darkness and humidity that reigns there. Who knows, maybe the old bones lying around also served as some sort of fertilizer for the mushrooms.

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1. During World War II, the catacombs were used by both sides Photo: 28DaysLater.co.uk

Since the existence of catacombs was common knowledge during World War II, and on top of that they extend many miles underground, it’s no surprise that they were used during the fighting. What may surprise you is that they were used by both sides.

Members of the French Resistance actively used the underground tunnel system during the war to hide and plan attacks against the Germans. The catacombs guaranteed that they would not be spotted by German spies or discovered by the enemy.

What is even more shocking is that the Nazis were also present in the catacombs and built various bunkers (for example, one under Lycee Montaigne High School). The remains of this bunker can still be seen today.

Catacombs of Paris – the underground city of the dead

Paris is the city of dreams and dreams, the city of love and romance, extremely attractive, beautiful and unforgettable. On the territory of Paris is concentrated an incredibly huge number of attractions.

Great popularity among tourists enjoys the underground city of the dead – the famous Paris Catacombs. Go down into the mysterious and gloomy dungeon can only brave. Many come here to plunge into the mystery of the afterlife, others – hoping to encounter something otherworldly. There is an atmosphere of peace and quiet here, it seems that the spirit of death still hovers in these dark underground corridors.

History of the origins

The history of the Paris Catacombs goes back to antiquity. In the 10th century stone was quarried on this site. The surface supplies were gradually depleted, so excavations had to be dug and deepened underground. So there were several huge underground mines, in place of which over time appeared huge voids. They were used as cellars. In 1259, for example, the monks of the nearby monasteries built wine cellars here.

The catacombs continued to grow, and by the 17th century some Parisian streets and neighborhoods were virtually above the abyss. Because of the threat of landslides, Louis the Sixteenth had to organize a special research expedition. Its main task was to study and strengthen emergency mines.

In the 17th century, a considerable role in the life of the state was played by the Church. There were a large number of them on the territory of Paris. The ministers of the church carefully honored and protected their interests. And since burial and burial brought them a considerable income, it was decided to establish a cemetery on the site of the former quarries. The mortality rate in those days was quite high – underdeveloped medicine, outbreaks of plague, and continuing military conflicts. As a consequence, more and more cemeteries began to appear in the underground city. The number of buried bodies far exceeded the allotted meters of land. As a result, various infections began to break out in the city with renewed vigor, food sourced and lost, and the cemetery became a gathering place for sorcerers, brigands, and homeless people.

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Unwilling to lose its income, the church defended its territory for a long time yet. But in 1763, thanks to the Parliament of Paris, burials within the city limits were still forbidden. And the underground city of the dead became the famous Paris Catacombs.

Tour of the City of the Dead

Tour of the underground city begins with a narrow spiral staircase. In order to get down, tourists have to overcome as many as 130 steps. After passing this difficult path, visitors find themselves at a depth of 20 meters, the temperature is equal to +14 ° C. The mystical dungeon opens its doors to the kingdom of spirits. The journey continues along a long dark corridor that resembles a large winding labyrinth. It leads to an ancient crypt, on either side of which black and white columns stand like guards. In the middle is a plaque that reads, “Here is the Empire of Death!”

The gloomy, dark corridors, the eerie messages on the signs, the dim lighting, the sound of water dripping somewhere, and the millions of skulls with empty eyes, silently looking at the visitors, involuntarily make you think about the mortality of life. After all, a few hundred years ago, all these remains belonged to ordinary people who loved, rejoiced, cried, feared and made their plans.

The catacombs of Paris is one endless museum, in which without a guide it is not difficult to get lost. For such cases, there are police on the museum grounds, looking for lost gawkers. The total area of the catacombs is about 11 thousand square meters. The length of the tunnel reaches 300 kilometers. Millions and millions of Parisians are buried here. Among them – the famous French poet Charles Perrault, the famous Parisian rich man Nicolas Fouquet, the revolutionary Maximilien Robespierre. It is known that their remains were buried in the city of the dead, but it is impossible to find them in this abyss of bones and skulls, as they have all long since mingled together, and some have turned into ashes and scattered in these long endless corridors.

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Interestingly, the underground city was not always just a crypt. During World War II, it housed Nazi armories and secret laboratories, and during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, the spacious halls of the catacombs were used for important receptions and balls.

Mysticism and the Supernatural

The Paris Catacombs have been the subject of legends and mystical stories for hundreds of years. The French claim that the unfortunates lost in the tangled corridors of the dungeon never found their way out and died. But the question arises, if they died here, then where are their bodies or at least their bones, since neither has been found.

In the southern part of Paris is the Parc Montsouri. It is located right above the catacombs. The townspeople claim that a mysterious ghost walks through the park, visiting from the cold dungeon. Each appearance is accompanied by an incredible cold and eerie smell of death.

In 1846, another incredible incident occurred in the city, stirring the mind and imagination. At the old building site, once owned by the merchant Leribl, a strange thing happened at night. As soon as the sun set below the horizon, rocks began to fall on the house. The result was broken windows, battered doors and damaged frames. The police chased the vandals for a long time, and at night they let vicious dogs onto the site. But all was in vain, the pogroms continued and then abruptly ended as if nothing had happened. Mystics claim that it was revenge on the souls who had been disturbed during the construction work. In this way, they tried to drive away those who had so unceremoniously disturbed them.

The Catacombs of Paris are one of the city’s most famous landmarks, imbued with the spirit of history, mysticism, mystery and unreality.

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