Catacombs

DSCN0911According to the Oxford Dictionary, an ossuary is “a container or room in which the bones of dead people are placed.  The ossuaries of Paris fit the description, with the bones of an estimated 6 million individuals.  Their skeletons were exhumed from cemeteries in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Everywhere you look in Paris, there are limestone building.  It turns out that Paris once sat on large deposits of limestone.  In the 13th century they figured out how to get large blocks of limestone from underground mines.  Initially the mines were on the outskirts of Paris, but over time the population grew and they built over the underground mines.  In December, 1774, the first collapse occurred with houses, an entire street, and 300 hundred people perishing.  Today the street is Avenue Denfert-Rochereau.  There a metro stop, Denfert-Rochereau, across from the entrance to the catacombs.  When we exited the metro stairs we could see a line that wrapped around the block.  Fortunately, Marcia had purchased tickets in advance.  We walked to the head of the line and were ushered and given the audio tour guides.

Before arriving at the ossuaries, we went down 300 steps and followed a tunnel for what felt like a kilometer.  It turns out that the underground tunnels run for more than 300 kilometers (literally more than a 200 miles).

The are limestone plaques that give an indication of where the graves were located prior to being exhumed.

Ella’s comment on the catacombs, “It was kinda interesting, but boring after walking by the same thing for a long time.”  Rachel thought “It was kinda creepy, weird and I’m surprised that tourist go there.  Why do people go to see bones?” Sarah summarized, “a lot of dead people, but I felt normal, not scared.”

DSCN0918
Although most of the catacombs were tunnels designed for workers less than 6 feet, this is a picture looking up in one of two areas where the ceiling was 36 feet

After the catacombs we saw one of the common sights, a truck making a delivery to fifth floor.  It turns out that many many of the residential buildings are five or six stories.  When they have elevators, they are too small to fit large items.  As there is much remodeling/renovation taking place, you frequently see these trucks in action.

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