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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Details

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

Rating

3.9/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Äbhay Raj (4 months ago)
We were torn whether to visit because of the difference in reviews but are so glad we did. We purchased our tickets ahead of time and recommend you do so as there is a different line. Our family of 4 went in January and had to wait in line for only about 15 minutes. During that time we spoke to people in Paris who had never visited before due to the extensive lines in the nicer weather. If you go during a high season expect to wait hours, even with an advanced purchase. Note there is no shade while waiting either as the line wraps down the street.  We did not do a tour but opted for the audio. It was very informative however the numbers are hard to find once inside. It does give you a lot of information though and we were happy to have it.  I can see how this may be disturbing to younger children however it was my 13 year old daughters favorite part of the trip. She loved the history behind it and could find the art in the way the bones were displayed.  We spent a total of a couple hours inside and since it wasn’t that busy we were able to take our time and really listen to the audio and explore. Couple this Catacombs with a walk around St. Germain, grabbing lunch or dinner and it is a perfect day out!
Alexander Pinigis (5 months ago)
I personally wasn't that into the catacombs. If you're the kind of person that really digs the macabre, I guess this would be good, but really, the experience is pretty much just walking past stacks of bones for a half hour, with very little to distinguish each pile. There's also a very long line unless you buy advance tickets (much more expensive)-- we got there about five minutes before opening and waited 45 minutes in line before getting in.
Kevin Lo (5 months ago)
It is a great place for a “romantic” date. Lots of history and human bones remains. Once you see the bones that’s pretty much it. All bones are the same. Walls and walls of bones. So after more bones, you’ll be greeted by more bones. Once is good enough and to maximise the value do opt for the audio guide so you learn more as you visit the place.
Jenny Blocker (5 months ago)
A lot of history, very amazing! We paid a little extra for a guided tour and to skip the line. Absolutely worth every penny. We arrived and the line was wrapped around the block. Our guide was full of information and we were able to see areas that are normally closed to the public.
Tom P (6 months ago)
I went at 6:50 PM on October 19, 2018. I was able to get in by 7:15 PM so I barely made the cutoff time which is at 7:30 PM. Price is 13 euros for people over 27 and 11 euros for people under. Babies are free I think? So to start off, most of the tunnel that tourists gets to see is pretty much a.. stone tunnel. You'll eventually get to the skeletons and skulls, but it wasn't really much. To be honest, it did feel artificial especially with a heart shaped out using skulls and the pretty skeletons laid out for us to see. I know these are probably real and there are endless tunnels that goes roughly 200 mile's worth; something you wont see here. There is also an unused train track that has a entrance in the wall that can lead you to the more deep parts of the area. I wouldn't recommend it, but that's where it would feel more creepy/fun. It was a nice short experience, though. There is also a restroom at the way end of the catacombs once you make your wake up the stairs and into the gift shop, in case some are worried about that.
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