The catacombs of Paris, erected at the end of the 18th century, contain the remains of more than six million Parisians whose bones were taken from cemeteries that had been deemed unhygienic and overcrowded. The ossuaries were created to extend south and to remove the city’s overcrowded cemetery. They were largely forgotten until they became one of the largest and most important burial sites in France in the early 19th century. Today, they are open for public visits, except for a few special events such as funerals.
The catacombs offer visitors a morbid spectacle of millions of human bones and skulls assembled in elaborate symmetrical heaps. The ossuaries, however, are anything but utilitarian, which seems to underline the importance of their place in the history of the city and its people. The walls and sculptures adorn the rooms, and philosophical poems about life and death can be seen, which can be thought-provoking as you walk through the galleries. Cataphiles are Parisian urban explorers who illegally wandered into the catacombs, a term commonly used to describe a group of underground caves in the heart of the city of Paris and its suburbs. The Catacombs were built during the French Revolution to house the remains of destroyed graves and the expansion of a city. The French resistance served as a refuge during the Second World War, during which it was overrun by the Nazis.
From the end of the sixties, the Parisians, known as cataphiles, began to restore the space and to organize ossuaries to make room for thematic quarters. In 1786, the Paris police moved the remains buried in the cemetery to the now infamous Paris Catacombs, located on the site of the former Cemetery of the Innocent Children in Paris (now closed). In 1788, Saint Innocentents was closed due to overcrowding and disease, and a century later catacombs were built in Paris. The now closed Holy Innocence Cemetery was overflowing with improperly disposed corpses, creating unhygienic conditions that led to the spread of disease.
A large part of the ancient history of the city lies in these tombs, which are lined with tunnels. Throughout history, the catacombs, a significant part of which is open to the public as a museum, have been used for other purposes. Many of these catacombs are open to the public, including the catacombs of Priscilla, but many are not. The word “catacomb” is used by archaeologists to describe the extensive underground cemeteries, in which there are large cabins (small rooms) in their galleries with branched corridors. Catacombs are also thought to indicate a place on the Appian Way called the “catacombs,” which means “hollow.” Catacombs have been available in the United States since the 19th century, with the more generous English cemetery founded by the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, one of the world’s most famous explorers.
In Ukraine and Russia, “catacombs” are also referred to as abandoned caves and tunnels, which used to be made of stone, especially limestone, and are used in the local language as plural catacombs. There are other objects that have been placed on the graves over the years, including statues and other monuments, as well as a variety of other objects. Most decorations are used to identify, perpetuate or show respect for the dead.
Countless bones are stacked and arranged into seemingly endless passages of a variety of shapes, sizes, shapes and forms. The remains of more than six million people were taken to the catacombs in the years when there was no room for further burials in several cemeteries in the city and they are considered the largest tomb in the world. The tunnels and excavations were dug in limestone quarries, which provided building material for the world from above. Yet Paris and its skull-and-bone-lined Catacombs attract thousands of visitors each year to explore the spooky burial ground.
We are the realm of the dead, “reads a sign welcoming visitors to the two kilometre tunnel with the bones of some six million Parisians, although the figure is still disputed. The catacombs were first used as burial grounds in the 17th century to limit the spread of diseases caused by overcrowded cemeteries. That changed in the late 18th century, when authorities realized that decomposing corpses in a city cemetery was not particularly good for public health. During the French Revolution, guillotine victims and others were buried here directly, including the body of the first mayor of the city, Jean-Baptiste-Louis-Marie-Antoinette, who was beheaded in 1794. Since then, the remains of Parisians have been buried in the underground tunnels, some of which have fallen victim to the time. In the narrow passages human skulls, which are arranged from the floor to the ceiling, pile up.