Guide To The Catacombs Of Paris
While the modern countries of Europe are filled with places that are saturated with dark history—plague, war, torture, and deep secrets—there are special locations that seem to give back the echoes of past horrors better than most. From the chilling echoes of the Tower of London to the ghostly presence of the Carpathian Mountains, visitors can chill themselves to their hearts’ content with the supernatural presence of what was.
However, perhaps catacombs pose the most broadly appealing opportunities for creepy thrills. These subterranean cemeteries can be found under several major European cities. They date back into Antiquity, marking the burial customs of several civilizations.
Those beneath Rome chronicle both the Etruscan and later Roman belief structures, before the Christian Era claimed the spaces for its own. Perhaps the most impressive catacombs in Europe lie beneath the charming bustle of the city of Paris.
What lies beneath
Visitors to the Catacombs that lie in earthen stillness beneath the bustle and motion of the modern Parisian world are in for a truly chilling delight. City authorities have arranged for a number of walking tours through these grim underground cemeteries.
Guests of Paris will be treated to an up-close-and-personal encounter with the dramatically different customs and beliefs surrounding death that reigned over the pagan and early Christian worlds, as well as a truly terrifying taste of the custom of ossuaries—bone rooms in which the stripped skulls and bones of the dead were housed.
How else might the urban dead of the Medieval period and the long centuries stretching back into the deeps of history be treated? With limited space, limited life expectancy, and events such as the Crusades, the Black Death, and numerous other wars, plagues, and deadly events, it is only fair to expect rather unquiet dead in this City of Cities. Within the echoing recesses, tours are treated to views of entire rooms lined with neatly arranged human femurs and skulls.
Feeling the chill
While this custom is a rational response to overcrowding, religious beliefs of the times, and extraordinary death rates that ruled the times, it is quite another matter to see rows of blank sockets staring back at one from the dim recesses of the vaulted caverns. Each pair of those smoothly clean ocular cavities once housed a pair of eyes that saw their world in vivid detail. Each smooth dome once housed a brain that carried out the same processes yours does, and is doing right now.
Is it only our proximity to the evidence of mortality that draws chill fingers across our flesh? Or is it perhaps something more, a clinging energy to these human remnants, a whisper of that which renders us human? Many visitors on these excellent walking tours report feeling an unexpected touch or seeing things they could not rationally explain. Are these merely echoes? Are they our bodily responses to heightened awareness and sensitivity? Or are they conscious entities, bound by the anchor of their remains to this earthly prison?