Thursday, December 29, 2005

Paris Catacombs


Under Paris there are about 300 kilometres of galleries. They originate from the time (under king Philippe Auguste, around 1200) when the city expanded so much that stones were badly needed. Later on, at the end of the 18th century, these galleries were turned into a huge cemetery and became the Catacombes. Now, most of these galleries are closed to the public - although you can visit a place called l'Ossuaire where skulls are to be seen - but some people still find ways to go under (I did when I was young not far from where I took this shot!). This time I did not take this photo, GRiZZ who is undoubtedly a Cataphile (Catacombs lover) did and I asked him if I could borrow it for ParisDailyPhoto. He nicely accepted. Do pay a visit to his stunning website you will not regret it.

24 comments:

  1. These galleries have been done to inspect the underground limestone quarries. The voids left by the exploitation were much, much larger. The king Louis XVI created in 1777 the "Inspection Générale des Carrières" which took over the task to fill up the voids to prevent quarry collapses (several collapses occurred causing extended damage to the buildings above).

    The "catacombs" covers only a very small part of the hundred kilometers maze of galleries. The catacombs are open to public while the access to the inspection galleries is forbidden. However, if you know your way, you can get in relatively easily. The way out can be more challenging as you can get lost very easily. One famous access was on boulevard St Michel, right in front of the Ecole des Mines. It has been sealed when Chirac, then mayor of Paris, saw a newscast about students getting in the quarries at night!

    JM-

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  2. Awesome photo GriZZ and awesome website. Good find Eric!

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  3. Thanks JM! I wonder how these were used during WW2 or if they were at all?

    What an amazing website you found there, Eric! I heard a lot about the Catacombes when I was a kid but never got to vitist them. On second thought, I'm kind of glad: pretty scary stuff, and it's not even Halloween! :-)

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  4. These quarries were used during by the german during WW2.
    They built a shelter, under the "Jardin du Luxembourg", right under the "Lycee Montaigne" for the use of the Luftwafe, the german air force. This shelter still exists with it's iron doors and some inscription like "Ruhe" which means silence or "rauchen verboten" which means smoking prohibited. It's called the Bunker by the cataphiles. It communicated with an other one under the Senat by a gallery under the rue de Vaugirard.
    German were organized underground. For the soldiers not to loose, they painted different arrows of different colors, one for each way out.
    French resistance used these galleries as well. Under the "Place Denfert Rochereau", Colonel Rol Tanguy started the Paris freedom in august 1944.
    French and German never met under.
    There is an excellent book about this period in the Paris's quarries : Promenades sous Paris from René SUTTEL. It's about a doctor exploring the galleries in order to draw a map for the resistance.

    Years ago, I burried not far from this place some wine bottles. They still remain behind a wall, in the "caveau des chartreux". Maybe some people will drink them in a few centuries, "à ma santé".

    Michel

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  5. The subterrainian passages of Paris are part of its folklore and legend. Long may they meander... and very spooky place they can be too...

    I'll be going down soon, hopefully, to get some pictures and stuff... and even the tourist part, with the eerily aligned bones and bits, is unsettling enough..

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  6. can you believe I've never visited the Catacombes? I'm just so scared!!!

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  7. I can't believe everybody knows this much about them. I think when I did the tour a few years ago, the most striking thing was how far away from where you entered that you exited. Thanks for all the tidbits everyone. I'll have to add them to my Paris tour of American visitors.

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  8. tomate farcie> As Michel describes, there were two shelters, one German, the other one French. There are some traces left of both. Curiously, during WWII the quarries have not been used to travel clandestinely underneath. There are very few wells to get in and out. The longest trip I did was from the rue du Regard (VIth district, near Seine) down to Porte de Briancon (XIVth district).

    Michel> I have heard of many odd things done in the quarries, but not someone burrying wine! Did you leave a note along with the bottles?

    JM-

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  9. Irene - I am with you here - I have never visited them because I am a bit spooked. GRiZZ's site is awesome, by the way, and I was amazed that these galleries are so extensive.

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  10. I visited the catacombs a few years back by myself. I didn't think much of it at first, because I ended up tagging along with a little group of people. Somehow I lost those people as we walked and couldn't see anyone in front or behind me. I kind of freaked! I was really spooked and hurried to get out of there. But I did get some cool photos. Not as cool as these however. Thanks :)

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  11. Thanks for the explanations and the stories! And now there is wine down there?! Now that is really kind of cool. :)

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  12. Actually, speaking of wine, it reminds me the story of Philibert Aspairt who got lost in the quarries while searching his way to the cellar of the Cloitre des Chartreux. His body was found 11 years after, and was buried where he has been found. His tomb is still there, and you can see sometimes flowers left by the "cataphiles".

    So, Michel, did you leave the wine bottles for the phantom of Philibert? :~)

    JM-

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  13. Edgard P. Jacobs s'est également servi du décor des Catacombes dans son album "L'affaire du Collier" (Blake et Mortimer) en 1966...

    Flocon

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  14. Let me tell you the full stoty about these bottles of wine. They were not for Philibert although he died, as the legend says, looking for some in the same place, nearly two hundred years before.
    I burried them only to keep them in a cool place, in the dark. Somehow I was proud to have the longest cave in Paris : nearly 150 miles long.
    When I was getting down with some friends, I used to pick one of two just before having a rest to eat some "pâté" and drink these bottles. The noise of the cork popping out in a deathly silence, the smell of the stone mixed with the smell of the "fromage de tête" were instants of pure happiness.

    The hardest thing, just after drinking, was to find the way out.

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  15. I knew this Catacombs photo would trigger lots of comments, but I must say it's beyond my expectations!

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  16. Fantastic!! I always say I am going to tour the Catacombs when I am in Paris and then chicken out...next time! Found your wonderful blog on "Paris set me free" and am now addicted. Merci et enjoy your pose in the Alps..no snow in San Francisco, but non-stop rain. Bonne Annee...kpg

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  17. The catacombs are so cool. Now I can't wait to see how they compare with the Roman catacombs when I go there.

    The entrance to l'Ossuaire can be somewhat hard to find near Denfort (I can't remember if that's the 'Rue' or the Metro stop (or both) - but it's well worth it. You just never, ever, see anything like this anywhere in North America.

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  18. In 1988 a small band of us sported mud boots and went with a friend who at the time was a guide to the underground. We entered in by climbing over a barrier, IS THIS LEGAL? Nobody said yes. We drank Mumm's in one spot, say a punk group jammin' in candlelight, we crossed over half a mile of telephone wires were my future husband cracked a joke, "Hey, who's on the line!?"

    It was dark damp and scary! We exited miles away in another section of Paris around 5am! It is by far the wildest experience I have ever had! And it was dark damp and scary!

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