catacombs of paris

This macabre maze of human bones exists in a series of subterranean chambers under the old medieval city gate of Paris, now Place Denfert-Rochereau, in Montparnasse, Paris. The Catacombs of Paris are a creepy, bizarre but very popular tourist attraction. These walls and mazes are made up of the bones of millions of Parisians who lived and died from the Middle Ages to the end of the 18th century. Most of the bones were exhumed from the old Les Innocents cemetery, which began burials in the 1100s and became so crowded that a retaining wall holding back one of the mass graves in the churchyard literally burst in 1780. At that time officials of Paris knew they had to do something with their millions of old bones, so they put them down here, in an ant-farm of underground tunnels that were hewn under Paris during mining operations in the Middle Ages.

This really is an amazing place. Check out the full panorama from 360cities. net and you’ll see a lot more here. From a historical and human standpoint, the bones piled here represent an incredible cross-section of the history of Paris and the world. Among these bones are tens of thousands of people who died of the Black Death in the 14th century, casualties of the Hundred Years War, consumptives, murder victims, people killed in duels, and all manner of bizarre injuries, diseases and acts of scattered violence. Experts estimate that there are about 6,000,000 people buried in the Catacombs of Paris. How would you have liked the job of digging up these old medieval graves and stacking dead people’s skulls and thigh bones in neat rows? In the late 18th century, a number of Parisians had exactly that job.

There is a similar ossuary, though built for different reasons, in Rome, called the Capuchin Crypt. I’ve seen it, and it’s chilling!

This photo was taken in May 2012 by Viktor Vokic.