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Home Tourist Attraction An underground ossuary in Paris is also a popular tourist attraction

An underground ossuary in Paris is also a popular tourist attraction

by Staff

The Paris Catacombs, the massive underground ossuary which attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists a year, are once again the focus a television series.

Here are five things to know about the final resting place for several million Parisians, which are featured in the show Berlin, as they were before in The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon and Lupin.

1. Extended galleries

A vast underground labyrinth of narrow tunnels and chambers extends for nearly 300km on the Left Bank of the River Seine, dozens of metres deep and in some places built on several levels.

They were originally quarries, dating back to the 17th century, from where limestone was extracted to construct buildings in the capital, and gypsum to make plaster.

2. Skull and bones

About 100km of these disused quarries were carefully stacked with bones taken from the city’s overflowing cemeteries from the end of the 18th century.

The authorities considered the cemeteries, containing Parisians who died between the 10th and 18th centuries, a health hazard.

3. Over 550,000 visitors a year

The catacombs are one of the City of Light’s more macabre tourist attractions.

In 1809 they were opened to the public by appointment, welcoming Napoleon III in 1860 and even a clandestine classical concert with musicians from the Paris Opera in 1897.

Today they are open to all, and welcome 550,000 visitors a year over an area of 1,500m.

That’s just a small part of the underground network, the rest being off-limits to visitors.

4. Cata-cops and cataphiles

The banned tunnels and chambers are regularly patrolled by police, known locally as “cataflics” (cata-cops).

They come up against a diehard underworld of “cataphiles” who manage to sneak into the forbidden area via sewers, manholes and metro stations, though they face a fine if caught.

They include those who go underground to party or paint graffiti, or are “catasprints” who explore the network wearing headlamps. Devoted “cata-cleans” clean up after the parties.

5. Lost and stolen

Inexperienced visitors often lose their way: in 2017, two teenagers were found in a state of hypothermia, after being lost in the maze for more than three days.

The same year intrepid robbers drilled through a wall of the catacombs into a neighbouring wine cellar and made off with more than 300 bottles of the best wines worth 250,000 euros (RM1.28mil). – AFP

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