Place #43: Catacombs of Paris

One of the developers on my team in the Paris office is always a lot of fun to hang out with. He always makes sure we are doing fun and exciting things while in Paris. So we were all disappointed when we discovered that for more than half of our trip, he would be on a separate work trip to Bucharest.

We decided to hang out on Sunday. He planned a day around Chloe and I expressing an  interest in seeing the Catacombs. He invited others in the Paris office as well, but only one other developer joined us. It started with brunch at a fancy hotel near the Louvre. Then we walked through Paris to get to the Catacombs. I was glad that we had bought tickets ahead of time because when we arrived the line up was winding around the block.

Place #43: Catacombs of Paris, 1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014 Paris, France

The Paris Catacombs started as quarries that were used to provide materials during the building of Paris. Roughly some time in the 1700s the city was having issues with its cemeteries overflowing and becoming a health hazard. It was then that they had the idea to use all the empty mines under the city as an ossuary. So, without much care for keeping bodies together or identified in any way, they started moving the bones underground. This sometimes literally meant throwing them down a hole in the ground. It was only in the early 1800s that the bones were arranged into what you see today. The femurs and skulls were the ones that were used in the ‘displays’ whereas smaller bones were piled up behind the walls of femurs. There are the bones of over 6 million Parisian bodies in the Catacombs.

It was interesting to walk through. On the one hand, the bones are arranged in a ‘macabre display of high Romantic taste.’ On the other hand, it’s human bones. The play of the two together seems contradictory.

After we finished the Catacombs, we got some really good ice cream and walked around Paris for a bit. It was a lovely day.

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