In the beautiful streets of Montparnasse, you would never expect that just 20 metres below, lies the final resting place for millions of Parisians. Back in the late 17th century, Paris was not always as beautiful as what it is today. In fact, it stank. The cemeteries were over full and becoming an increasing risk to public health. Especially as a lot of the food markets were in this area. It is said that the stench of decomposition was so bad, the milk would churn and the wine would sour. So in 1786, the bodies of over 6 million were moved to a former underground quarry, to rid the streets of the foul smell.This process took 12 years to complete and today is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Paris. For me, it was my favourite attraction. A little morbid yes, but fascinating!When we arrived at the Catacombs, the line was well over 200 people. I can’t express how chuffed I was that I had bought our tickets online, and only had to wait in a que of five. It costs about €5 extra to do this and it goes without saying, it was definitely worth it!Quoted from the poet, Victor Hugo, “Paris has another Paris under herself.” This couldn’t be more true. 130 steps down a narrow, spiral staircase and we were in the other Paris. As we chose to have an audioguide and not be part of tour, it was literally just Chloe and I down there. Other than the occasional muffled rumble of the metro, it was eerily quiet. The tunnels are long and narrow. I’m just about 5’2 and I could touch the ceiling on my tip toes. In such a confined, quiet space and knowing what waits ahead, its pretty creepy!
As you can see in the image above, there is a black line on the ceiling. This line leads through the tunnels to the catacombs for when it was explored by torches.
Eventually we got to the entrance and joined the crowd, shuffling around the skeletons. Even though the skulls are staring you straight in the face, its shocking that they are actually real and so old.The barrel was my favourite part of the catacombs and an image that many will recognise, if they have googled the catacombs before. We were behind a tour group at one point and ended up over hearing some of the talks the guide was giving (which was pretty handy as we had finished our audioguide). She was telling the group how a lot of the bones down here would of been people that were beheaded. The last beheading in Paris was in 1977, which is a mere 41 years ago! It was a man named Hamida Djandoubi who was originally from Tunisia. He was given the death sentence for murdering and torturing his former girlfriend, Élisabeth Bousquet in March 1977 and killed six months later.When we’re reached the end of the tunnel it was back up to the land of the living to have our bags checked. When you’re in the catacombs and wearing a back pack, you have to hold it to avoid damage to the displays so I would suggest wearing a small one!