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29.11.07

Paris catacombs flyers











Like most cities, at least in Europe, Paris has huge subterranean cavities, built in 2000 years of history for many purposes: quarries, religious hideout, beer cellars, subways and bunkers. Most of the excavations are located at the base of the three "mountains": Montparnasse, Montrouge and Montsouris. There are approximately 300km of galleries all together, not all of them are connected. The most extended connected system of tunnels is located under the 5th, 6th and 14th districts, and is about 100km long.
The name catacombs is derived from the usage as graves. This name is sometimes used for all the underground caverns of Paris, but the tourist spot, open to the public, are the graves. They do not really promote them to tourists, but they are open to the public.
At the end of the 18th century, the government began converting several subterranean rooms into mass graves. This was necessary to meet desperate overcrowding in the medieval cemeteries in the center of Paris, which also became a hygienic problem. From 1785 to 1786, in 15 months, millions of bones and rotting corpses were tranported from the unsanitary city cemetery in Les Halles to this place. It was a monumental project to transport the bones in huge carts at night across the city.
And here they are, in huge piles, arranged as crosses, as faces and in other different configurations. Above the door outside are the words (in French): Stop! This is the empire of death. This bone collection of 5 to 6 million people has 11,000m².
Just before the Revolution, Charles X threw wild parties in the catacombs. During World War II the French Resistance set up its headquarters here. Today modern troglodytes "cataphiles" (cave dwellers) again have parties in the underground. There are raves and restaurants, and of course all kind of subculture you may imagine. Regular patrol of the police is futile, as there are virtually hundreds of kilometers of underground tunnels. These flyers are from various french cataphiles.

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