Sunday, 1 February 2009

Catacomb and Ossuary

Take a look at this interesting picture that I took in Paris.

"So what Wildy? It's just a bad picture of a street sign, why are you wasting my time?" most likely what you are thinking, but bear with me.

Like the sign below it, these were taken in Paris. However I was under the street when I took it.

Welcome to a picture from the Catacombs of Paris.

I don't know how many people know of it, but there are tunnels underneath the Paris. Initially they were used for quarrying limestone which went into the construction of the city above. Yes, you heard me right, they used the very rock that the city was built on to build the city. Doesn't sound very logical huh?

In the 1800s when the city started to collapse from the tunnels they sent workers down there to reinforce, and strengthen the tunnels. These street signs were a useful way to allow a worker to find his location in the labyrinth of tunnels.

Over time the catacombs have been used as a quarry, some tunnels, a hiding place during the revolution, transport tunnels for the Resistance and the Nazi troops during WWII a church and an Ossuary.

When the tunnels were being strengthened the government also thought it would be a good idea to empty out the cemeteries, which were getting too full, and pile the bones into the catacombs. They did, and along the way they consecrated the area and made a chapel.

The remains of about 6 million Parisians lie within these catacombs, which are lined with skulls and femurs mainly, along with plaque things with stuff that I can't understand in French, and Bible quotes that I can't understand in Latin.

Somewhere among these bones are also victims of the Terror, nobles, a lawyer to the King, a handmaiden of the Queen, enemies of Robespierre and also Robespierre himself. When the cemetery was emptied the remains of Robespierre were moved to the Ossuary as well and were lost among the remains of other Parisians including those who he had sent to their deaths.
The catacombs are located on Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy and the walk through the catacombs takes about an hour.

There are two spiral staircases that you have to walk on and the area before the Ossuary shows you the reinforcing work that was undertaken as well as some sculptures of palaces on an island somewhere.

On the way out you can see areas where the tunnels had caved in and subsequently cleared, leaving a bell shaped roof.

If you do what I did, go see the former site of the Bastille first. Then walk across the Seine and check out their Natural History Museum (with a statue of Lamarck...) If you don't go to the other museum there, go to the metro stop outside the McDonalds and head to the Catacombs. They are right across from the Metro station (but you have to go above ground first).

Finally, sorry for the crappy pictures. I used my phone on night mode. I wasn't the one carrying the camera.