Paris is known as the city of love. It’s ridiculously funny that a city known for its celebration of life and love would have such a dark secret buried underneath.
The site I am referring to was originally built as the ‘Paris Municipal Ossuary’ in 1786, and later became known as the legendary ‘Catacombs’, inspired by the Roman catacombs. It was not until 1809 that the Catacombs were opened to the public. However, people went haywire when the said Catacombs were opened.
Here are eleven fascinating facts about the Catacombs of Paris:
1) The Catacombs of Paris have been used for various purposes, but one of the strangest might be the cultivation of mushrooms. A story suggests that the Napoleonic army hid in the catacombs and eventually discovered that it had the perfect environment for growing mushrooms. Moreover, several other farmers followed them and started growing mushrooms amid the corpses of over six million people. The said practice still exists, and it is widely believed that the catacomb mushrooms have an exceptional taste.
2) Paris was the largest city in Europe back in the 17th century. Its cemeteries were overpopulated; the bodies were often easily unearthed. Residents in certain neighbourhoods would complain of overpowering odours of decomposing corpses. Hence, the Parisian authorities decided to move the decomposing bodies from the cemeteries to the Tombe-Issoire quarries.
3) The catacombs became a hideout for various cults back in the early 2000s. The authorities of Paris discovered a massive cinema room, completely equipped with a screen, equipment, and a restaurant. The weirdest part is that a secret camera was clicking photos of the officers as they passed into the entrance.
4) The process of transferring the remains of over six million people took twelve years to complete.
5) Some of the tunnels of the catacombs are filled with water; certain people go there to have a nice, exhilarating swimming session. (I have no idea how they do it, though.)
6) The bones that arrived in Catacombs were initially dumped in massive piles. However, Louis- Étienne Héricart de Thury supervised the transformation of the quarries into the spooky art that still exists in the Catacombs.
7) Francois Décure was a worker who spent some of his quality time working in the quarries constructing small but amazing sculptures in the walls of the limestone sections of the Catacombs. His artwork still exists and is admired by several individuals.
8) Some of the skulls were transformed into massive hearts. It was because there was limited space, and they had to accommodate over six million bodies.
9) Certain stories claim that King Charles X would throw confidential parties in the tunnels when he was the Comte d’Artois.
10) It is said that the members of the French Resistance actively used the underground tunnel system during world war II. They also made various strategies and planned attacks against the Germans. The Catacombs of Paris provided safety.
11) People have lost their lives in the Catacombs of Paris. Philibert Aspairt, a doorkeeper, entered the catacombs in 1793 and never returned. His body was not discovered for eleven long years. However, his remnants were found near the entrance 11 years later.