The catacombs of Paris

While Paris has been making history in plain view a lot has happened under the paving stones. Located south of the former city gate (the “Barrière d’Enfer” at today’s Place Denfert-Rochereau), a subterranean labyrinth of former quarries holds the remains of six million Parisians, moved there after a decision in the late 18th century to close cemeteries within the city walls for reasons of public health. Opened in the late 18th century, the underground cemetery became a tourist attraction on a small scale from the early 19th century, and has been open to the public on a regular basis from 1867. This guide written by Gilles Thomas with photographs by Emmanuel Gaffard takes us through the vast  ossuary maze of sombre galleries and narrow corridors laden with walls of bones where limestone was once mined. The official name for the catacombs is l’Ossuaire Municipal. Although this cemetery covers only a small section of underground tunnels comprising “les carrières de Paris” (“the quarries of Paris”), Parisians today often refer to the entire tunnel network as “the catacombs”. A fascinating guide to the dark side of the city of light. J.M

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