Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Darker Side of Paris (Part 2) - The Catacombs

I've been looking forward to my trip to the Catacombs of Paris for ages. Back in the summer of 2013 I had finished my BA and found out that I'd been accepted to do my MA in Paris and I was just so excited (and relieved!), not only because I'd be getting to live and study in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but because of the amazing menu of trips we were sent as a teaser. I read down the list which had so many glamorous and uber cool museums, galleries, grand chateaus, the list went on and on, but the Catacombs was definitely the stand out and the one which intrigued me the most. 

My uni friends and I rocked up at 10:20am and the queue was already winding down the road and round the corner. One of the best things about these trips is that we get priority tickets as being part of a big University group so we got to go straight inside and get cracking.

France and Paris in particular has such a rich history; wars, battles, plagues, revolutions, it's seen a lot of action and there has been much blood spilled here.  But until today I'd only learned about the events themselves; what I'd never really been taught was what happened to all the bodies of all the lost souls who didn't survive the wars or diseases. The answer? They were transported down here in the early 1800s and their bones piled high to create the Catacombs of Paris.

These pictures I took of all the skulls are from the ossuary, the final resting place of the bodies, which contains row after row and pile after pile of skulls, leg bones, hip bones, all carefully arranged one on top of the other to create a structure that hold the roof up!

It's a real labyrinth in here and we walked round bends and turns for ages. The amount of bones just seemed to be infinite, and the tour guide informed us that there are 7 million skeletons down here, which is currently more than the number of people walking and breathing on the surface of Paris! They stopped implementing bodies down here in the 1960s completely before things got too out of hand, but most of the bodies in here were put in in the early-mid 1800s.

I didn't know if I would feel creeped out but I didn't really at all; it was just the thought that I was just walking on by all these disconnected body parts of skeletons who used to be real people with lives and families and stories. That was the scary part. It certainly gets you thinking being down here!

We were told lots of interesting little bits of information about Paris in the 19th Century, including the fact that death was a big part of life back then, what with the threat of war and disease being rife in the crowded city areas. There were lots of quotes on the walls saying things like 'these people met their fate with death, and someday so shall you'. Chilling stuff!

One little thing which lightened the mood was these carved castle sculptures.

We were told lots about the quarriers who built the Catacombs and these amazing castles were done by a prisoner of war who spent his time down here whittling these for his workmates to enjoy. Unfortunately he died in a rockslide so was never to see how people appreciated his work but I did very much, they're marvellous.

The Catacombs were amazing and did not disappoint - I'd say it has been the best trip that my uni have organised since I've been here. They are well worth a visit if you are tripping in Paris in the future, but make sure you bring a jacket as it is rather chilly in the ossuary and wear comfortable shoes as you will be walking a fair way inside. 

I'm off to blink my eyes back to normal now and enjoy the sunshine now with a cup of tea and a book. See you guys soon!

1 comment:

  1. I went to the catacombs in Palermo which are nowhere near as big as the Parisian ones but I still got the same feeling of not being freaked out but being made to reflect quietly on life etc. Unnerving yet peaceful! xxx
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