Catacombs of Paris

Paris, France

The origin of the Paris Catacombs, which it would be better to call “Municipal Ossuary”, goes back to the end of the 18th century. The Cemetery of the Innocents (near Saint-Eustache, in the area of Les Halles) had been in use for nearly ten centuries and had become a source of infection for the inhabitants of the locality. After numerous complaints, the Council of State decided, on November 9th 1785, to prohibit further use of the Cemetery of the Innocents and to remove its contents.

Disused quarries were chosen to receive the remains; the city of Paris had in fact just completed a general inspection of the quarries, in order to strengthen the public highways undermined by them. Building work was done on the “Tombe-Issoire” quarry, using large quantities of stone, strengthening the galleries and completed by digging out a staircase, flanked by a well into which the bones could be thrown.

The transfer of the remains could begin after the blessing and consecration of the site on April 7th 1786, and it continued until 1788, always at nightfall and following a ceremony whereby a procession of priests in surplices sang the service for the dead along the route taken by the carts loaded with bones, which were covered by a black veil. Then, until 1814, the site received the remains from all the cemeteries of Paris.

Since their creation, the Catacombs have aroused curiosity. In 1787, the Count d’Artois, the future Charles X, made the descent, along with Ladies of the Court. The following year a visit from Madame de Polignac and Madame de Guiche is mentioned. In 1814, Francis I, the Emperor of Austria living victoriously in Paris, visited them. In 1860, Napoleon III went down with his son.

The Paris Catacombs re-opened on June 14th 2005, after several months of closure for building work. The lighting has been adjusted, the vaults strengthened and the walls of bones put back.



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Founded: 1786
Category: Cemeteries, mausoleums and burial places in France


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User Reviews

Paige Loffler (6 months ago)
We had a fantastic time visiting the Catacombs! Even though our time slot was fully booked we noticed that there was minimal wait times and you could explore on your own without fear of being close to others. The audio guides were a nice addition, with the entire walk through taking 1 hour to 1.5 hours depending on how fast you walk!
Margo (7 months ago)
Must explore! This place is awesome. Ordered tickets online one week in advance for a specific time . Recommend ordering ahead of time as there are limited tickets daily. Walk down a staircase several flights. Then start your one mile journey! You definitely cannot get lost as different corridors are blocked off. Lots of historic inscriptions. Femurs and skulls are clean and preserved. Really enjoyed the visit. A sacred place. Walking up at end of tunnel is not bad but it does spiral around just keep going! Highly recommend.
David Blair (7 months ago)
Such an interesting place to tour. More history here than one might expect. Make the trip and see for yourself. Tickets are on reservation and should be ordered ahead of time.
Sonnen Bank (9 months ago)
Mixed thoughts about this. Definitely book upfront, tickets will be released seven days in advance. I feel it’s very overpriced for what you get, there is no tour unless you book it. There is no audio device unless you book it. Be prepared that you have to climb down the stairs and up again, didn’t matter for us, however, I don’t know if the catacombs are accessible for wheelchair users. Bear in mind that you probably see 5% of the catacombs. It’s pretty much one way until you reach the exit. What you will see, is quite unique and obviously very depressing and dark, surely you know what you signed up for. It’s scary but also impressive to see. I still feel that it’s way to overpriced, they should have at least included the audio guide in the price. It was definitely a must see on our list, choose for yourself. The souvenir shop in quite nice.
Lindsey Boyd (9 months ago)
Advice - book in advance so you don't have to wait in long lines to get in. Amazing piece of history where the bones of many Parisians are stored. It is dark and gloomy, I didn't find it claustrophobic but I'm sure people can. Really worth a visit if you are visiting Paris and you want an interesting place to visit
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