The Catacombs

I’m a big Anne Rice fan — her vampires make Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” vamps seem like, well, the adolescents to whom they are marketed! Anne Rice was on my mind a lot today as I visited the Catacombs in Paris.

The Catacombs were used as a ossuary beginning in the late 1700s after Paris’s largest cemetery, the Cimetiere des Saints-Innocents was closed for public health reasons. Around 1777 it was decided that bones from all the city’s cemeteries would be stored in these disused limestone quarries.  From 1786 until 1860 some 6 million skeletons were moved and placed in the Catacombs.

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At the beginning of the 19th century, the Catacombs opened to the public and people have been coming in droves ever since — bravely plunging through a door with a sign overhead that warns: “Stop! This is the empire of death!”

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In addition to stacking the bones in some interesting designs, the quarrymen who were doing this macabre work — at least a couple of them — were real artists. There are several very striking sculptures in the Catacombs.

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