Friday, January 11, 2013

ET 2.01.b - Les Catacombes de Paris

Actual date of this event: 29 December

Luke and I had hopes of visiting the Catacombs first thing on Friday morning (day two). The night before we had done some extra research online and here are a few things we read that were helpful:
-only 200 people are allowed in at one time
-located 130 steps below ground and 83 steps back up to street level
-length of 2km all which is underground
-takes approx 45 minutes to go through the attraction
-admission is 8
-doors open at 10am
-last entry is at 4pm
-no flash photography
-cold, dark, damp and sometimes water drips from the ceiling
-many people expressed they waited 2hrs to get in
-many people expressed they waited 2 hrs and did not get in due to the 4pm last entry time
-general safety and health warning
With that being said, it sounded like a "secret-society" which got me pretty excited!

On Friday morning, Luke and I had a late start and did not arrive at the Catacombs until 10:45am. By this time, the line was around the corner, but didn't look too terrible. We did not know what expect, so we jumped in line. After only moving about 20 feet in 45 minutes, we decided that it would be best if we came back earlier the next day.
where we were in line on Friday morning
On Saturday morning, we were sure to get up when our alarms went off, and we were sure to be out the door at 9am. We took the metro and arrived at 9:25am. There were already about 100 people ahead of us in line and the doors weren't opening for another 35min. Luke got us some coffee while I held our spots in line. By the time the doors opened at 10am, the line was about where we were in line the day before. Thank goodness we decided to come as early as we did!
where we were in line on Saturday morning
When 10am came, we were very curious to see how the admission process worked. Since only 200 people were allowed inside at one time, would they let in 200 people all at once? Would they let in a little bit at time? We figured out the process after waiting about 15 minutes. A door man lets in about 10-15 people every 10 minutes. Let's think about why they do this... The whole attraction is 31 meters (approx 100 feet) below ground. There are really dark and narrow hallways. Having crowds of people is that little of space would cause major panic to some people, so its best to avoid that as much as possible.
the line in front of us
When it was our turn to enter, it was 10:45am. We waited 45 minutes after opening, but a total of 1hr 20min. That is a pretty long time, but we at least knew we were getting in soon. The day before, there was no telling how long it would be and we would have waited in a line for half of our sight-seeing day. We were #135 and #136 to enter the Catacombs.
Left: sign outside of the entry door with information and a few warnings
Middle: entry door
Right: a digital counter displays the number of people inside the Catacombs    
Entrance - When you enter the Catacombs, you go down a small spiral staircase. Since only a few people are let in at one time, Luke and I were alone going down this staircase (and most of the tour). Next, you enter a room with posters explaining some history of the quarries, catacombs, and ossuary. Basically, in 1780, the largest cemetery in Paris was closed due to public-health reasons. The Council of State decided that the bones from all of the city's cemeteries would be moved to the disused limestone quarries. This continued until 1860, and the catacombs were open for public viewing in the early 19th century.
shows the depth of the catacombs
Hallways - Like I said earlier, the hallways are narrow and dark and long. I can definitely see people having claustrophobia issues down there. And you know those nightmares you have where you are running from a killer and you cant see to find our way out of a building? There is some of that going on too. Anyway, the walls have inscriptions on them labeling the roads above and the work that was done in the corridors.

Workshop - A disused quarry with stacked pillars and stones that helped support the ceilings.

Port-Mahon - A sculpture of a town and fortress where a quarryman believed he was held prisoner.

Footbath - This clear water was used to mix cement used to build the Catacombs.

Ossuary - The sign above the entrance reads "Stop! This is the empire of death!"  The 780 meters of corridors are home to the human remains of some six million Parisians. The first bones were thrown into the corridors in 1786. About 25 years later, the bones and skulls were arranged to form a facade with bones behind. Throughout the corridors, you will find a few plaques and only one tombstone. During our visit, there were many sections closed off without reason.

You are not allowed to touch or take any bones, but someone couldn't resist with the touching.

Crypt of the Passion - The barrel hides a pillar that is supporting the ceiling. It was in this area that a secret mid-night concert was held in 1897.

Exit - Another spiral staircase leads you back up to street level. A man sits at the door keeping track of how many people exit the catacombs on Rue Remy Dumoncel.

This was a very interesting experience for me. I had never seen anything like it before and I am thankful to have gotten the chance. Was it worth it to arrive early and still wait 45 minutes to get in? Yes, because I may never seen something like this again. Would it have been worth it to wait the day before instead of leaving? No, because we had so many other things to see in Paris that our time was precious. If we had nothing else to do in Paris, then yes, I probably would have waited.

After visiting, I did some research online about ossuaries and catacombs. There are several ossuaries throughout Europe - Rome, Milan, Poland, Portugal, and more. There are also many churches throughout Europe that use human bones as decoration which I would love to see. Is it weird that I am interested in the display of human bones?

Coming up next: The Palace of Versailles

Other Posts from Paris: Day 1Eiffel TowerDay 2CatacombesVersailles, Day 4Wrap-Up

A few types of bacteria have been discovered to thrive in Roman Catacombs. Ick.



  1. Very cool. Much more impressive than the tiny catacombs in Salzburg. You may be interested in reading about this, just outside of Prague:

    I'm surprised they don't set up a system for buying tickets ahead of time with a specific appointment time. They did that with a lot of the attractions in Florence and it worked really efficiently. But I guess that's just the American in me...:)

    1. Laine, I thought about that too. I not sure why they don't do that. At least we had sunshine while we waited! (which I forgot to mention in the reblog :-[ )


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...