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

Danny Bridgewater (13 months ago)
Fantastic experience that I cannot recommend highly enough! We went in July right before Bastille Day. It was very busy with a line around the block so I definitely recommend getting a tour guide; they can tell you so much information and we managed to skip the huge line. It is beautiful and macabre so if you enjoy dark and twisted or eerily beautiful this is for you!
Layton J (13 months ago)
Want to realize the value of your life and all that it contains? Visit here. You can just marvel at the limited time here on Earth, and ponder what the future holds in eternity. You are literally face to face with it by the millions of bones. I highly recommend doing this. I didn’t get to it until my 2nd trip to Paris, and happy I finally did. It was a very confronting experience to gaze my eyes and heart into what eternity may hold. Miles may vary for others, but this was my takeaway as someone of faith.
Juan Quaglia (14 months ago)
Very creepy place, as you can expect. It's interesting how the skulls have been arranged following different patterns and designs. Only one section of the catacombs is accessible to the public. At the end of the visit there's a gift shop with different skull-related items.
Emily Michelle Fata (14 months ago)
Surprisingly not as eerie as I thought travelling through an underground World of the Dead would be. You adjust fairly quickly to your surroundings and it instantly becomes increasingly interesting. To see how nearly the entire city of Paris has this network of bones underneath it is equal parts shocking and impressive. You should note too, that it’s a long way down into the depths of the Catacombs, and what feels to your body like an even longer climb back up to the surface (if you’re not in the best of shape). Totally worth it, though! I’d definitely go back.
Alvaro (14 months ago)
Interesting visit, not worth it without audio guide and quite expensive, the tour is just a walk around, the first part was just a tunnel, an interesting one at that but still, the second part was through the bones. Great experience but bearing in mind it's just a walkthrough I think 15€ is more than enough. Besides the 40% of the exposition is closed due to c...d 19. I don't know why if they left visible the other 60%...
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