The catacombs of Paris are well renowned across the globe and draw in tourists and explorers year-round, but as the coronavirus continues to worsen the catacombs have officially been shut. It’s not the end of the world however as you can now plan a ‘virtual visit‘ on the catacombs website!
The catacombs started around the end of the eighteenth century when the overflowing Paris cemeteries started to cause major health issues for the still-living residents. It is thought that since its creation the catacombs have come to house over six million bodies.
The catacombs started life as a quarry, which was subsequently abandoned and has played a major role across many historical events, including the fact that the tunnels were used by French resistance forces during World War II.
Even though a portion of the catacombs is frequently opened to the public, the deeper recesses of the tunnels are thought to stretch over 186 miles. Exploration of these parts of the catacombs is technically illegal but has gathered a following of ‘cataphiles’ who visit, explore and even live in the underground caverns.
For some, the catacombs are a way of life, and secret entrances are spread throughout the city, some people even built a fully functional cinema down there!
The most devoted cataphiles follow a few simple rules;
- 1. “What goes down must come up”. This is in reference to littering and maintaining the tunnels
- 2. “Never speak of the above”. With no sense of the real world below ground, the catacombs become almost an alternate dimension to many, some even going so far as to create new aliases and identities and as such people’s ‘real’ lives are not commonly discussed.
- 3. “Never trust anyone”. With intentionally misleading signs and the world’s most complex and dangerous tunnel system, the ability to navigate by yourself is crucial, which is highlighted in this third and perhaps most important rule.