The Catacombs, the final resting place of 6 million Parisians, are an underground network of tunnels and old-world stone quarries converted into a cemetery during the 18th and 19th centuries. An eerie yet celebrated city of the dead, the Catacombs lie silently in stark contrast to the bustling streets of Paris above.
1st century: Seine River banks mined to build Paris by Romans.
1774: King Louis XVI commissions underground tunnels to be strengthened after multiple mine cave-ins.
18th century: Effluents from overcrowded graves started to contaminate water.
1780: Basement wall in a building next to the Saints-Innocents cemetery collapsed under the weight of the mass grave behind it.
1785-1787: Millions of bodies from the graves were carried to the strengthened tunnels in nightly processions.
1809: The Catacombs became the new home for millions of bodies from more than 150 cemeteries.
Post-French Revolution: The Catacombs opened to mourners and visitors.
While the Catacombs constitute only a section of the vast underground labyrinth beneath Paris, over 6 million Parisians have been buried in these ossuaries, more than the current living population of Paris.
Since 2013, the Catacombs have become one of the 14 City of Paris Museums managed by Paris Musées. Today, the Paris Catacombs remain one of the city's most unique attractions for millions of visitors from all over.
The Paris Catacombs gained significance in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as a solution to cemetery overcrowding and is today home to the remains of over 6 million people. They feature meticulously arranged bones and skulls, making it a heritage and tourist site.
While the underground tunnels date as far back as 1 AD, it wasn't until 1785 that the remains of Parisians began to be transferred to the Catacombs. By 1809, the Catacombs became the final resting place for remains from over 150 cemeteries.
Mined by the early Romans for limestone, the underground tunnels were created during Paris' urban expansion. By the 17th century, Parisian cemeteries were overwhelmed, prompting authorities to relocate human remains into the strengthened quarries beneath the city. Between the late 18th to early 19th centuries, the tunnels were transformed into vast ossuaries housing the bones of millions, as seen today.
Originally Roman quarries, the underground tunnels under Paris expanded during the Middle Ages to meet the growing demand for construction materials. By the 17th century, human remains were relocated from overcrowded cemeteries into the disused quarries, housing millions of bones. During the Napoleonic era, the Catacombs were organised into artistic arrangements of bones and skulls. Today, they are a site for tourism and a reminder of Paris' intricate history.
Legends of secret societies and hidden chambers within the tunnels have persisted over time, adding to their mystique. Despite regulations prohibiting unauthorised access, the Paris Catacombs have been a magnet for illegal exploration by urban adventurers called 'cataphiles'. During World War II, the Paris Catacombs also served as a refuge for French Resistance fighters against Nazi occupation.