Can you guess what is the common point between the poet Jean de la Fontaine and one of the main characters of the French Revolution, Robespierre ? Their bones lie at the same place … in the Parisian Catacombs!
Can you believe it? There is an additional under ground network, besides the Parisian “metropolitan” subway. You can reach the Catacomb tunnels by the 14th arrondissement. This is if you mean to take the official entrance.
Prepare for a 65 foot trip underneath the street level. You will have to take 130 steps to go down but only 83 steps to return at the street level!
Historically, the Catacombs have been set at the location of ex limestone mines that became an ossuary in 1786 : millions of Parisian bones have been stocked over there for more than one and a half centuries to comply with the sanitary policy of the cemeteries.
Since 1983, an official tour has been designed by the Cultural Department of the City of Paris. The tour is one and a half miles long, among which close to one mile is related to the ossuary itself! The visitor is then invited to walk in the middle of a staged death. The atmosphere has been described as “rom-macabre” with the bones exposed in a cluster setting. A motto is written at the entrance of the place: “Stop here, this is the empire of Death”.
Tourists are crazy about the tour and sometimes have to wait over an hour in line to access the tour. It may sound like very long, but everybody looks delighted on the way out!
And if one day you see a couple of reckless Parisians popping out of a sewer plate while walking in the street, don’t worry. This means that they’re back to the surface after a trip in the Catacombs … through a non official way that is not permitted!