I’m sure everyone here has heard of the Catacombs of Paris. It is listed as one of the top 10 most haunted places in the world!
A brief history of the Catacombs:
The official name of the Catacombs is l’ossuaire municipal, the cemetery covers a small section of underground tunnels making up the “les carrières de Paris ( ” The quarries of Paris ” ) the entire tunnel is referred to as ” The Catacombs “. Since the Roman times Paris buried its dead on the outskirts of the city. The rise of Christianity brought a change about the practice of burying the faithful dead in consecrated grounds and in adjoining churches.
With the city’s expansion in the 10th century, there were many cemeteries however with the population rise in Paris the cemeteries became overcrowded and expansion was not possible. At this time only the most wealthy could afford church burials, which in the 12th century led to the opening of a central burial ground. At the end of the same century people were dependant on the church St. Opportune near the central Paris district Les Halles the church was later renamed Saint Innocents under it’s own church and parish.
The common practice for burying the dead poorer people was mass inhumation. When an evacuation in one section of the cemetery was full, it would be covered over and another one made. Very few of the dead had coffins, more often a coffin would be used again for a next burial. The residues resulting from the decaying matter, a process accelerated chemically with the use of lime entered directly into the earth caused a serious problem for a city who relied on well water.
Around the 17th century the conditions near and around Saints-Innocents were unbearable. Once a sought after cemetery for burial and a huge revenue for the church and parish, the church continued to bury even when the cemetery was overflowing. At that time the cemetery was lined with “charniers” , a place reserved for the bones of the deceased who were exhumed from the mass graves and had been there long enough that they were decomposing. When it was emptied it would be used again, but the earth had already been saturated with decomposing human remains.
It wasn’t until the late 18th century that the city decided to condemn all existing parish cemeteries and create three large suburban burial grounds on the outskirts of the city. Most of the reason that nothing was done about Paris’ burial practices was their lack of ideas of where to dispose of the dead who were exhumed. The government was looking into long abandoned stone quarries around and in the city of Paris since 1777. Alexandre LENOIR, had the idea to use the empty underground tunnels, his successor , Thiroux DE CRONSE, chose the place to the south of Paris ” porte d’ Enfer ” and the transfer of the exhumed to the underground sepulture began in 1786. The same year on April 7th was the consecration ceremony, the bones were deposited in a wide dug well in the land and distributed throughout the caverns. Near the site they put up crosses, urns and necropolis memorabilia that they brought from the churches graveyards.
The first years the Catacombs were merely a bone repository. In 1810 Louis Etienne HERICART DE THURY, saw that they were renovated and transformed, the underground caverns became a real visible sepulture like a mausoleum,he directed the rearrangement of skulls and tibias into what we see in the Catacombs today, he also used tombstones and cemetery decorations to complete the wall of bones.
The Catacombs are open for guided tours. It is listed as one of the top 10 most haunted places in the world. Visitors have claimed that they were ” touched by unseen hands “, others claim to have had the sensation of being followed, cold spots in certain areas a few cases of hysterical breakdowns, a few others have claimed to have been strangled. With the disruption and disrespect of the dead, it’s now wonder the streets below Paris are haunted.
Written By: Karen M., Copyright 2009
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