Did you know that the catacombs beneath the streets of Paris attracted visitors even before modern day tourism. Even before the last bones were moved there in 1814. They have been a major attraction for centuries, with the larger underground crypt areas said to be used as joining concert halls in the 1800s. The ambience and acoustics were great for reverberating sound.
People seemed fascinated by dark, subterranean tunnels full of mystery and intrigue and there have been many stories and legends told about the inhabitants whose final resting place is in the French Catacombs.
Stretching for several city blocks beneath the city, the tunnels are lined with bones gathered from several graveyards and churches in Paris. Among these remains include the bones of famous literary and historically famous and infamous persons from previous centuries.
To name a few, the bones include writers such as: Francois Rabelais (1483-1553), Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1698), and Charles Perrault (1628-1703); artists Francois Girardon (1628-1715) and Simon Vouet (1590-1649); architects Salomon de Brosse (1571-1626), Claude Perrault (1613-1688) and Jules Hardouin-Mansart (1646-1708).
During the French Revolution, those who were executed by the blade of la guillotine were buried directly into to catacombs. Later other remains were transferred from their original burial pits into the catacombs include Lavoisier (1743-1794), Madame Elisabeth (1764-1794), Camille and Lucille Desmoulins (1760-1794 and 1771-1794), Danton (1759-1794), and Robespierre (1758-1794).
While it may be impossible to locate these famous bones upon a walk through the eery tunnels of bones, it brings a deeper meaning to your experience. You are not just visiting another tourist attraction, but a shrine of remembrance to the past people who lived, fought and died in various Parisian situations, battles and wars.
When you are able to visit (or re-visit) the French Catacombs again, take a moment to reflect on the century of history you are privileged to be a part of and you may feel a deeper connection and understanding to the spirits who continue to reside here.