Friday, November 25, 2011

The Catacombs of Paris (l'Ossuaire Municipal) - Paris, France

Deep beneath the streets of Paris, France, there lies the jumbled remains of over six million Parisians.  Many believe that because these poor souls where disturbed in their resting places, they roam the ancient subterranean stone quarries of Paris or what today is known to many as "The Catacombs".

Some of the first remains relocated to the old stone quarries of Paris (les carrières de Paris) or more commonly known as The Catacombs

What is known by many as l'Ossuaire Municipal (The Catacombs) or by some les carrières de Paris (The Quarries of Paris), began when an overcrowding problem occurred with church cemeteries in the 12th century.  Offering burial in their cemeteries was a source of income for the churches.  As a result, they would take in more bodies than they could really handle.  Large pits were dug for those who could not really afford a proper grave to make room for well paying customers.  When these mass graves were full, they would fill them in and open another.  

The catacombs of Paris hold over six million human remains

In the late 18th century,  this technique of burial began to cause health problems, so after a time when the remains in one mass grave had decomposed, the bodies would be exhumed and relocated and new bodies buried in the pit.  The bones of the previous occupants were moved to the old under ground quarries that were refurbished and reinforced. The bones would be stacked neatly in rows where they remain to this day.  After a while, mass burial in the city was banned all together.

Crypt of the Sepulchral Lamp located in The Catacombs of Paris

Over the centuries the catacombs have been visited by many including both French underground and German soldiers during World War II.  There are tales of death and murders that have taken place deep within the hidden catacombs of Paris.  Many visitors claim to have "felt" strange things when they have been in the catacombs.  Feelings like they were being followed and in some cases touched by some unseen force.  Other visitors have reported seeing shadow figures or specters deep within the stacks and rows of skulls and bones.  Undoubtedly the disturbance of all those souls to be brought into the catacombs has left the spirits of these individuals unsettled. 

Paranormal researchers visiting the catacombs of Paris have captured strange EVP recordings as well as photographs of strange, unexplained lights or orbs as well as misty images appearing on film.

Unfortunate souls once located in mass graves now line the walls of The Catacombs of Paris (l'Ossuaire Municipal)

Millions of visitors a year wander into the catacombs and it is said that many who have gone there without a guide have never been seen again.  The quarries of Paris are extensive as the burial ground only makes up a small portion of the quarry system.  They still pose dangers of collapse at any time.  Originally, the stone quarries were located outside of the city.  However, with the expansion of the city over time, they were covered over.  The entrance to the catacombs are located south of the old city main gates near the Denfert-Rochereau station.  If you decide to explore the catacombs, just make sure you don't become a permanent resident!

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