A few days ago was the day I’ve been most looking forward to in this trip: Catacombs day.
The Catacombes de Paris, located in a former sandstone mine that supplied stone for many of the older buildings in the city, is the home to the remains of over 6,000,000 people. The bodies were removed from their original places of rest throughout the city and relocated, in a process that took more than 3 years.
Almost immediately afterwards, the place became a major tourist attraction; almost like haunted houses today. Initially it was only accessible to the wealthy and influential Parisians, but today even American plebeians like myself can experience it!
Going into today, I didn’t realize how many people were interred here. I knew it was a large number but I was thinking thousands, not millions. I expected skeletons to be on display. Honestly I was expecting something like a troll tomb from World of Warcraft
Clearly my expectations were off. Turns out, the vast majority of the people interred in the catacombs here in Paris didn’t even have the wealth to keep their bones in one place after they died. Instead, here the bones are arranged by type, without thought to who owned them. Femurs and skulls are arranged in artful rows, almost like the belt courses on the buildings stories above.
All in all, the Catacombs proved to me what I already know: I’m really naive and there is so much I have yet to learn. My expectations of this space were completely off, and failed to account for how short, narrow, and sparsely lit this space would be (albeit very vast)
One last comment to make about the catacombs, however, is that it is an amazing example of adaptive reuse. Once the mine was decommissioned, this massive space could easily have lain unused and empty underneath the city for centuries. Now it’s the final resting place for millions of Parisians and a source of income and tourism for the city.
Here are more pics from today:
Song of the day: “Spooky Scary Skeletons” from the Living Tombstone