For urban explorers, few places are more coveted than the Catacombs of Paris. Long sealed off to the public, these harrowing subterranean chambers house an 18th century cemetery – essentially an anonymous mass grave. Beyond this, a labyrinth of tunnels extends for 280km beneath Paris in a network of disused stone mines and galleries.
The ossuary is but a small part of the city’s vast network of subterranean tunnels and caverns, created during the 18th century to house much older human remains from Paris’ overflowing cemeteries. It became a macabre tourist attraction on a small scale from the early 19th century, and was open to the public on a regular basis from 1867. It’s hard to imagine that every bone in this chillingly clinical pile belonged to a living human being. Who were they? What did they look like?
The Paris Catacombs cover a portion of Paris’ former mines, originally found just outside the city walls before Paris expanded in 1860. Although this cemetery covers only a small section of underground tunnels officially called “les carrières de Paris” (“the quarries of Paris”), Parisians today popularly refer to the entire network as “the catacombs”.
There are numerous entrances to the Paris Catacombs, many of them hidden and known only to a select cadre. Could this abandoned railway tunnel hold the key to the underworld?
After crawling through the tiny cave-like portal, iron runs descend deep into the earth to a network of chambers and passageways that are covered in graffiti and littered with rubbish. But it’s at an even deeper level that the Paris Catacombs as we imagine them to be stretch for miles beneath the city, silent and safe from most prying eyes… If you plan to go any further, you can do so right now from the comfort of your chair, as we take a virtual tour of one of the Scariest Places on Earth.
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