We admit it or not, we all find a little bit horror quite interesting. There are a lot of places around the world that are said to be haunted. If you like visiting scary places, then you will surely like Les Catacombes, located at Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy in Paris, France. Les Catacombes is an underground ossuary which contains the remains of approximately six million Parisians which were transferred there between 18th and 19th century as graveyards because they were posing risk to public health. The ossuary is situated almost 20 metres below ground. An interesting fact is that you have to be on site to book tickets to explore this place because there are no online bookings available.
The depth of Catacombs is equivalent to a five story building and it contains 213 steps in which 130 are used to go down and 83 to reach the exit. Total walking distance is 2 km which takes approx. 45 minutes to complete. The temperature remains constant at 14 C all the time. Les Catacombes covers a total area of almost 11,000 square meters and only 200 visitors are allowed in the area at a single time.
The history of Les Catacombes is quite scary. It is believed that it contains bones from many graveyards and churches in Paris. During the Revolution, people were buried directly in the Catacombs along with the members of Swiss Guard killed in the battle of Tuileries palace on 10th August 1792 and victims of massacres in September 1792. In later 1700s, Catacombs were adopted as a creative solution to a dire public health problem. The cemeteries were getting overcrowded by dead bodies and in 1786, the Paris police moved all the remains buried in the cemeteries to an underground network of ancient limestone quarries which is now known as Les Catacombes.
How to get here?
Les Catacombes is located on Avenue du Colonel Henri Roi- Tanguy which is easily accessible by all means of transport. The easiest mean is metro Denfert Rochereau because the entrance for tours to the Catacombs is located just across the street from the Denfert Rochereau Metro Station. The ticket office of the Catacombs is a small, green building which looks quite different from big gray stone buildings around it.
The entrance door of Catacombs is just a little plain black door and you can easily miss it while walking by it. On entering you will see a board which indicates that flash photography is not allowed inside. The tour costs just $11 for adults and taking an audio guide with you will be a very good option. But if you are planning a group tour then there will be a personal guide for your group who will give you all information behind the Catacombs including how they were filled with bones and why.
On entering, there is a staircase that will take you to a small gallery where some drawings and photographs are displayed. After leaving gallery, the dark and scary area of the tunnels starts. There are no toilet or cloakroom facilities inside so you have to come prepared. For the first 1000 meters you don’t see any skulls and can be kind of boring. But when you enter the tunnel you see a forbidding sign over a stone portal to the ossuary which warns – “Stop! This is the empire of death.” written in French off course. The ossuary door is framed with two stone pillars decorated with white figures on black backgrounds. That is where the forbidding sign is placed. It is the place where you will see the remains of some six millions Parisians stacked in the corridor. Here, you will see and ancient tomb and a chapel known as Sacellum Crypt. A plaque marks the spot where the first bones from the cemetery were placed in 1786.
The Sepulchral Lamp and Gilbert’s Tomb
The Sepulchral Lamp is the oldest artifact in the Catacombs which is a bowl in which quarrymen used to keep a fire burning constantly to create a draught to make the air circulate through the corridors. Gilbert’s tomb is not actually a tomb. It is a sarcophagus shaped artifact which covers the reinforcement works. It has some melancholic verse written on it by the poet Gilbert who died in 1780 and buried somewhere else instead of Catacombs. There is an array of skulls and shin bones in the crypt of the Passion which hides the pillar supporting the ceiling of Catacombs.
An educational corridor is manages by the General Inspectorate of Quarries just before the exit of the Ossuary. It features bell shaped subsidence cavities which illustrate the common type of damage sustained by limestone quarries in Paris. This area contains 83 steps ending on the exit door. The bags of the visitors are checked right on the exit door because people try to steal pieces of skulls and sculptures from the Catacombs.
Les Catacombes have been a place of curiosity ever since they were created. The experience of this creepy but interesting journey will remain with you for a long time. It has everything from skulls and femurs to sculptures and tombs. A visit to Les Catacombes is highly recommended if you are in Paris.