23 – 27 APRIL: PARIS, FRANCE
Continued from part 13: Day three in Paris
26 April: The creepy underground of Paris’ catacombs
As you’ll know from our visit to the Capuchin Crypts in Rome, I have a slightly morbid fascination with the way in which human remains are on display. Growing up in South Africa, this is completely unheard of and more than a little eerie.
I also realised (a little belatedly) that this scene in the Court of Miracles from The Hunchback of Notre Dame was actually far more creepy than I initially thought as a child back in 1996.
The catacombs in Paris was one of the only attractions we couldn’t book tickets for before-hand and my only advice here is the GET THERE EARLY. We stood in line for two hours, as only a select amount of people are allowed in at any given time. There are numerous warnings to the faint-hearted about the catacombs’ confined spaces and somewhat disturbing displays of remains. In addition the passages accessible to the public form an almost 2km long labyrinth some 20m underground. This tour is not accessible to young children. Though cameras are allowed, you are not allowed to use flash and the conditions are very dim.
In comparison with the very stylised displays of the Capuchin Crypts, the catacombs seemed impersonal and gave a distinct “function over form” feel.The catacombs used to be stone quarries in the 1700s. Abandoned because of the dangerous conditions, these empty tunnels became the perfect place to store the remains of approximately 6 million people when the Paris cemeteries were filled up in the early 1800s. Along the path are signs showing the cemetery that the remains originated from, as well as the date on which they were moved.
I loved the experience and highly recommend it!
Our trip concludes: Three (very lazy) days in Amsterdam
Header photo by Deon Joubert.
All other images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012.