Catacombs of Paris, the largest ossuary in the world

Catacombs of Paris, the largest ossuary in the world

[ Dec.2019 ] On the second day in Paris, we went out to look for croissant and café au lait for breakfast in the morning and walked around the hotel.

good quality of vegetables were sold in the market

After a while, we found a small flea market which was followed by a small food market.

Quite many people were shopping there, showing that the good old custom is still alive here.

On the stalls we could see the high quality vegetables which we would not see in London unless we go to some very expensive upmarket shops and they were sold at reasonable prices.

A friend of ours who had moved to France from London was telling me the other day, “there are some difficult things to deal with, but the quality of life here is higher”, and now I felt I understand that, at least a little.

However, the convenience of living is worse here.

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many people queuing at the entrance of the Catacombs

The general strike continued on the day, too, so we asked the hotel receptionist to call a taxi to get to The Catacombs of Paris where I had wanted to visit.

The purpose of our short holiday in Paris this time was to see a ballet and an opera, but because they cancelled both of them because of the strike, we hurriedly changed our holiday to be a sightseeing tour.

We have already been to most of the famous tourist attractions in Paris, but not the Catacombs.

When we got there, we found a long queue, so we joined it.

Only 200 people can get in at a time, so the queue hardly moved.

After quite a long time when the light rain started, though it was supposed to be a dry day, a member of the staff came up and said “The Catacomb will be closed at noon, so people around here in the queue would not be able to get in. It will open again at 2:30 pm, so come back again”.

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going down the spiral staircase

Oh, how unlucky….

The father of a German family in front of us in the queue showed the website of the Catacomb on his mobile phone to my husband, pointing that it says ‘open all day’.

So my husband hailed the person in charge and asked about that, then he explained “Because of the strike, we do not have enough people today, so we close between noon and 2:30 pm“.

I see, this is another aspect of the strike.

Quite many people gave up and left the queue, but we followed the German family and stayed on for a while.

Then, because there were fewer people, we could get in at 11:57!

That was a truly a brilliant achievement.

The entrance fee was €14 with the audio guide in English.

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the dark narrow corridor

But after we went down 132 steps to the 20 metres underground and when we were walking in the narrow long corridor, my husband said that he would go back.

Because he is a little claustrophobic and asthmatic, he was worried that he might get panicked soon.

So he went back and I kept going on my own, but after a while, he came back to go on.

He said, because they closed this place at 12:00, nobody could be up there after climbing up the long staircase, which would be another problem, so he decided to risk it.

So we moved on together.

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the exhibition in front of the entrance of the ossuary

On the way, just before the entrance of the ossuary itself, there was a room with some exhibition and there was a person in charge there as well as the sign of exit, which made him feel at ease.

But it was obvious that he did not want to stay long, so we hurried on.

In the ossuary, the walls were made of an enormous number of bones.

Apparently they are the bones of 6 million people.

Unlike the ones we had already seen such as in Faro in Portugal and in Milan in Italy, this place has no religious meanings.

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skulls are arranged in the shape of a heart

This was made only because the other graves became full up.

They decided here which used to be the 15th century quarry to be the ossuary in the late 18th century.

At first, they used to throw the bones haphazardly, but around 1810 the Inspector General of the Quarries developed this area to be in order with certain design.

In the early 19th century the Catacombs were opened to the public and in 1897, they held a midnight concert here.

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the souvenir in the shop

Of course ‘the Funeral March’ by Chopin and ‘Danse Macabre’ by Saint-Saëns were included in the programme.

More than 100 people came for the concert to test their courage apparently.

By the way, my mother who visited here decades ago said to me “I remember feeling that after our death, we are all the same : Japanese or Westerners, the rich or the poor…”

In the end, my husband managed to go through all the way and we went up to the museum shop on the ground.

I bought an eyeglass cloth with the skeleton pattern for the memory and we left there.