7 Million Bodies Are Buried In This World’s Biggest Grave: Paris Catacombs

Beneath the beauty of the city, lies miles of tunnels that are said to have been there since the 13th century

Catacombs
The place has even been dubbed "The city of the dead," so it's no surprise that filmmakers have picked it as a setting for horror flicks. Wikimedia commons

BY- JAYA CHOUDHARY

Paris is well-known as the ‘City of Love’ and one of the world’s cultural metropolises. But there is much about Paris that you don’t know as compared to what you do. For example, Paris is a city with a long-buried mystery that stretches back more than 2,000 years. You may think of Paris as the city of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Arc de Triomphe. But something creepy lies underneath the surface.

Beneath the beauty of the city, lies miles of tunnels that are said to have been there since the 13th century. Of course, we’re referring to Paris’ famed Catacombs. The Paris Catacombs are a subterranean ossuary containing the skeletons of nearly 7 million individuals. These tunnels are absolutely impressive, with a depth of 20 meters and a length of more than 300 kilometers. The place has even been dubbed “The City of the Dead,” so it’s no surprise that filmmakers have picked it as a setting for horror flicks.

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History

Paris was not always the stylish, international metropolis that it is today. In general, great European towns of the past were noted for being filthy and congested. By the 18th century, even the cemeteries in Paris were becoming congested. Doctors began to understand that they were also to blame for a variety of ailments that were spreading throughout the city.

Catacombs
These tunnels are absolutely impressive, with a depth of 20 meters and a length of more than 300 kilometers. Wikimedia commons

Subsequently, the Holy Innocents’ Cemetery caused the most trouble since it was located in the heart of the city and was the largest cemetery in Paris at the time. It was also Paris’s oldest cemetery, and it was frequently utilized for mass burials. That means there were a lot of dead bodies in there. The mayor of Paris decided that the Holy Innocents’ Cemetery needed to be closed down in order to rid the city of the stench and sickness that was emanating from it.

Catacombs
Beneath the beauty of the city, lies miles of tunnels that are said to have been there since the 13th century. Wikimedia commons

The dilemma now was, “Where do we put all of these bodies?” The solution was found in a network of ancient quarries in Montrouge, a town outside of Paris. The quarries developed into a network of tunnels that ran underneath Paris. As a result, a huge endeavor to move the dead from the cemetery to the quarries began in 1785. Interestingly, to avoid hurting the sentiments of people, the majority of the project was completed at night time.

Tales of visitors

When the Catacombs were first exposed to the public, they quickly became a popular destination for both Parisians and visitors. People from other parts of the world have also shown great interest in this magnificent creation. An estimated 3,00,000 people visit the catacombs each year. With so many visitors visiting the place, it not surprising if tales of bizarre activities have surfaced from the spooky tunnels.

Catacombes
An estimated 3,00,000 people visit the catacombs each year. Wikimedia Commons

It is believed that in the tunnels, a group called the ‘Communards’ murdered a number of French monarchists. The French Resistance sheltered in them, while the Nazis established a bunker in the catacombs. Recently, Airbnb paid a stunning $300,000 to rent out a section of the tunnel for the night. Sounds like a daredevil adventure!

Some French people prefer to get down with the dead and leave the rest of the world behind when they are free from the noise and bustle of Parisian streets. On the other hand, the tunnels have also been a top spot for Parisian people who like to party. At one such party in 2016, a man died of a heart attack. In another incident in 2017, two lads, ages 16 and 17, went down in the land of the deceased and were only rescued three days later, both suffering from moderate hypothermia. What’s more interesting about this spooky place, is that there are many, many secret entrances to the catacombs. You might find a doorway to this underground world of the dead in bar cellars, subway tunnels, and even church crypts. Unsurprisingly, sometimes these doors get discovered and people go down there to explore.

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Conclusion

Like so many other things in the beautiful city of Paris, the Catacombs have a narrative that ought to be told. Although visiting the Catacombs is a terrifying experience, it is fascinating to observe an unlimited quantity of human bones and skulls heaped on top of each other to build gigantic structures. With so many things to do in and around Paris, it may appear to be a depressing affair. Most people, however, recommend that you visit this landmark at least once while in Paris!