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The catacombs

The Catacombes

Quarrymen first dug these tunnels in ancient times (that was where they extracted the plaster used to build the original Paris). They were later used to warehouse the remains of six or seven million Parisians, when authorities decided to shut down this city’s cemeteries in the 19th century. Discover the catacombs with our video... 

 


The origins of the catacombs

The origins of the Paris Catacombs (municipal ossuary) go back to the late eighteenth century.
The Cimetière des Innocents cemetery (close to Saint-Eustache church in the Halles district) had been in use for almost ten centuries and had become a hotbed of infection for local inhabitants. After many complaints, the Council of State passed a decree on 9 November 1785, announcing the closure and emptying of the Cimetière des Innocents.
Former quarries were chosen as the resting place for the bones. The city of Paris had just created a Quarries Inspectorate whose role was to consolidate highways which were affected by subsidence caused by mining. Work was carried out in the Tombe-Issoire quarries involving significant masonry work, shoring up of tunnels and the excavation of a stairway adjoining a shaft into which the bones were tipped.


The first human remains were transported in 1786…
The translation of remains began after the blessing and consecration of the site on 7 April 1786, continuing until 1788, always taking place at nightfall according to a ritual involving a procession of priests wearing surplices. They sang the Office of the Dead as they followed the route of carts loaded with bones covered by black cloths. The site subsequently housed bones from all Parisian cemeteries until 1814.

 

 

A site which arouses curiosity
The Catacombs have aroused curiosity ever since their creation. In 1787, the Comte d’Artois, who was to become Charles X, went down into the Catacombs accompanied by the ladies of the Court, and a visit by Madame de Polignac and Madame de Guiche is recorded in the following year. In 1814, Francis I, Emperor of Austria, who was living in Paris after his part in the defeat of France, was also a visitor. In 1860, Napoleon III went down into the Catacombs with his son.

The Paris Catacombs reopened on 14 June 2005, after several months of closure for building works. The lighting has been upgraded, the vaults reinforced and the walls of bones re-erected.

Useful information

Catacombes de Paris (Official website)

» Download the tour guide (1,7 Mo)  
 

1, avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy (place Denfert-Rochereau)
75014 Paris
Tel.: +33 (0)1 43 22 47 63
Fax: +33 (0)1 43 22 48 17
Metro and RER B station: Denfert-Rochereau
Bus lines: 38, 68

Fee-paying car park: Boulevard Saint-Jacques


Opening hours:
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm. Last admission at 4pm.
Closed Mondays and public holidays, Easter Sunday and Whitsun.
Terms and conditions of the tour
- Visitor numbers are limited to 200 people on the site at any one time. Admission may be delayed for a short time during busy periods.
- Distance covered: 2 km
- Duration of the tour: 45 minutes
- No toilet or cloakroom facilities
- 130 steps to go down and 83 steps back up to street level
- Temperature: 14°C
- The tour is unsuitable for people with heart or respiratory problems, those of a nervous disposition or young children.
- Children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

 

Admission:
Full price: €8
Reduced price: €6
Half price: €4

Free : children up to 13 years inclusive

 » More info (Official website in English) 

 



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