After two attempts of trying to get inside the Catacombs of Paris, we made it last Saturday. Waiting in line for over two hours, we made it five minutes before the last cut-off time at 4:00 p.m. We were so relieved and lucky to be part of the last few that made it through.
The Catacombs of Paris was created as an ossuary at the beginning of the 18th century. This labyrinth holds six million Parisian bones, and these bones were removed from the cemetery of the Innocents–Les Innocents–in Les Halles district. By the 17th century, Les Innocents had become over flooded with bodies and the unsanitary conditions had become unbearable for the residents in that district. The fatty residues of the decomposed cadavers had remained in the soil and became incapable of decomposition. Then came the infections within the residents of the district and after many complaints, there was a ruling for the excavation of Les Innocents.
Down one-hundred-thirty steps into the ground, we followed a pathway of mortar walls, breathing in heavy musty air. What we saw was only a small portion of Paris’ underground. We walked one kilometer throughout the labyrinth, but this underground tunnel expands over one-hundred-eighty miles throughout the entire city.
When we got to the ossuary, it was amazing to see all of those bones stacked one by one in art form. I didn’t find it creepy, and would have loved to explore longer without everyone around us. There is a lot of history to the catacombs, as there have been other inhumations besides the transfer of Les Innocents. Everything about it is unbelievable: the skulls, tibiae, and other parts of the skeleton once belonged to someone.
I’m glad and feel fortunate to have visited the catacombs. It’s an amazing place. If you do decide to go, I recommend going right when it opens at 10 a.m. since the afternoons get really busy. We got in at the cut-off time and were hassled by the workers to move along because they were closing soon. I’m not sure if they do this throughout the day to get the line moving, but it was annoying. This is a popular attraction and the lines are consistently long no matter what day you go.
We took many pictures, but nothing is better than being there in person. So if you go, I hope you appreciate and enjoy your time down there. And good luck with the line!