The Glory of Life and Also of Death
Parisians live their lives in a way unlike most big city dwellers. As you stroll along the city streets you can see Parisians in cafes who are leisurely enjoying their morning coffee unhurried as if time didn’t exist. There is a certain “joie de vivre” (joy of life) that permeates all aspects of being. As a native New Yorker who has been living in Paris for just over a year, I found it difficult to fall into this rhythm but I eventually learned to slow down and live my life as if I had all the time in the world.
It is well known that Paris offers visitors some of the most amazing attractions in the world such as the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Bridge of Lovers, the Louvre and numerous other amazing museums. Did I mention The Eiffel Tower!!!
However, there is one attraction, hidden deep underground, which is unlike any other. This attraction is one of the hottest tickets in town. This is the attraction which celebrates the flip side of life. It glorifies death with reverence and love.
We are talking about the Paris Catacombs, a vast network of underground corridors in which there are bones of nearly 6 million people.
Plan of catacombs 1857
The Paris Catacombs is a 200 mile network that is a remnant of quarries, from which the limestone needed to build the city has been mined since the times of the Roman Empire.
Description: Stop! This is empire of the dead.
The city grew more and more, centuries passed, and under the streets of Paris, the tunnels of old mines remained in oblivion. Unbeknownst to most people the city resembled a Swiss cheese! In 1774 the hollowed out quarries could no longer withstand the weight of the buildings standing above them and they began to collapse, destroying the buildings along today’s Denfert-Rochereau Avenue. This tragedy alerted the authorities that measures needed to be taken regarding these almost forgotten tunnels. Those events coincided with the overflowing cemeteries of Paris and the need to move the remains of millions of dead people to an area away from the live people residing there. Voila! The bones are transported underground, the catacombs are created and a sensational visitor attraction is born.
I am always excited to offer our guests a skip the line, special access guided tour to see and learn about this Empire of the Dead, the darkest attraction in the City of Light: the Paris Catacombs. We soon discover that here in Paris, life and also death are celebrated with style!
Gustave Doré – Paris Catacombs