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Report - Paris Catacombs, May 2010.

Discussion in 'European and International Sites' started by Skydiver, Jul 12, 2010.

  1. Skydiver

    Skydiver Memento vivere
    28DL Full Member

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    The Paris Catacombs have long been a place I wanted to see for myself, in May this year I finally made it. Thanks to OT, UJ and Shadow from this side of the pond, and special thanks to Rug and the Teknicien for their hospitality in Paris.

    The catacombs under Paris were originally created to mine for the stone used in the buildings above ground, as Paris grew so did the need for materials, and so did the quarries. In 1180 C.E., Philippe-Auguste became King, and it was under his rule that the tunnel network would truly be born.

    Problems began to arise in the eighteenth century, the city of Paris (and the weight of its buildings) continued to grow, some buildings began to collapse and fall into the earth that was opening up below them. On April 4, 1777, the Inspection Générale des Carrières was formed to manage, fill in, or close sections of the tunnels deemed dangerous.

    This was the start of the transformation into the catacombs we see today. Alexandre Lenoir, the Police Lieutenant General who was overseeing the renovations to the quarries was the first to see potential in the quarries as storage for the dead that were (quite literally in some cases) spilling out onto the streets from the overcrowded and putrid cemeteries.

    Getting into and around the catacombs is uncomfortable at times, with low ceilings and crawls that just seem to sap the energy from you as you go.

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    The tunnels we walk along follow roughly the roads above, as the roads don’t bear as much weight there is less chance they will collapse into the catacombs. The roads are named underground to aid navigation, it really is a city below the city.

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    As we walk around there are piles of carbide here and there, white or black depending if they were burned after being discarded, only once was I subjected to the smell of carbide that was disposed of, and left without being burned... the foul sulphurous stench was overpowering.
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    We visited the monks fountain
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    Philibert’s grave
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    The lanterns room, kindly lit up by a group of cataphiles with candles before we got there.
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    The Bar
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    The Library, which had some interesting books, including accounting for dummies (or similar)
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    And the Human Bomb room, a mural of a man who took a class of schoolchildren hostage for 2 days with 16 sticks of dynamite strapped to his body.
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    Also on the tour was the German bunker, established during the second world war, this is where my trip nearly came to an abrupt end...
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    And, of course, we also saw the bones...
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    Sleeping in the catacombs was not so bad
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    Although falling asleep with your trousers hung over a tripod, trying to dry them with a carbide lamp may not be the best plan...
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    The final night in the catacombs coincided with the cataclean party, where people partying down there take up a bag of litter to a particular stairwell where it can be collected by the authorities.

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    We ended up dragging out a mouldy tent, filled with all sorts including enough pots and pans to furnish the average kitchen, hundreds of cigarette ends and bottle tops and a random assortment of broken glass and plastic – oh, and a 4ft fir tree!
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  2. Skydiver

    Skydiver Memento vivere
    28DL Full Member

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    A few days after being in the non public side of the catacombs I decided to take a trip into the public side, this section of the catacombs is very different, the bones of the dead have been arranged in macabre formations, with skulls and tibias forming a wall behind which the other bones have been stacked.

    These walls stretched on and on, I tried to keep in mind that each skull, each pair of leg bones was an individual, but the more you walk down the 1.7km route, the harder it is to see the reality behind the display.

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    And then there were piles of bones outside of the public view, in gated off areas you couldn’t see without torchlight.

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