Deep below the streets of Paris their lies a labyrinth of tunnels filled with the skeletal remains of over 6 million people. A not so proverbial skeleton in the closet if you will. A few summers ago we had the opportunity, along with some friends, to explore these tunnels. They are The Catacombs of Paris, and if you have a chance a visit is definitely worth your time!
As I drag the boys from monument to museum to landmark hoping they are enjoying themselves. I remind myself that the real world education the kids are receiving will more than make up for missing a few days of school here and there. They seem to enjoy our travels, but was I fooling myself? How much of an impact was all this travel really having? As it turns out, quite a lot!
Our older son is taking French in school this year and according to him visiting Paris was definitely a factor when deciding which language to take. Just as our visit to the Paris Catacombs helped provide the inspiration for his French Night presentation. The boys did a fabulous job building a replica of the Catacombs and preparing a slide show, which they then took turns presenting in both French and English.
Here, in his own words, are some thoughts that Simon had about his visit to the Paris Catacombs:
I had been on underground tours in other places, but the Catacombs of Paris were unique for the fact that the entire place was filled with human bones. The experience was really interesting and cool, and I am really glad I went. If you’re wondering, is this a creepy or scary place to visit? It’s not at all! It has a long and fascinating history and there aren’t many places in the world like it.
Simon’s French Night Presentation Materials:
- At 229 years old, the Catacombs of Paris are a labyrinth of bones situated 20 meters below ground.
- Originally built to combat the health risks of aboveground cemeteries, The French transferred the bones from cemeteries into its pre-existing tunnels for easy storage.
- The tunnels had been under Paris since the first century AD, when they were mined out by the Gallo-Romans.
- The bones of over six million Parisians were transferred to its depths from many different cemeteries.
- During The French Revolution, bodies were put directly into it and in World War II the French Resistance used it as a base.
- The Catacombs span over two kilometers and are filled with strange murals and wall designs made entirely of human bones.
- People have always been fascinated by it since its creation, and everyone from Napoleon to royal families have explored its endless tunnels of bone.
- Opened to the public in the 20th century it is now a popular tourist destination in Paris.
- The temperature in the Catacombs is always at 57 degrees Fahrenheit
Hi It’s Me Again…
When you plan your visit to the Catacombs keep in mind that it is an incredibly popular tourist destination and that they allow only 200 people into the tunnels at any one time. The tours take 45 minutes, so be prepared to wait. The official website recommends visiting after 3 pm Tuesday – Friday, but we chose to arrive about an hour before opening and ate breakfast while we waited in line.
While I found the tour and visit very fascinating, and not at all scary, I don’t think a repeat visit will be necessary. It is interesting to think about why they needed to build the Catacombs and how different the practices of today are from 200+ years ago. Taking quality photos was difficult, especially because I only had my iPhone, but I did get a few worth sharing. Au Revoir!