The Catacombs, built in the 18th century to take the strain off overflowing graveyards, have long been one of Paris’s most popular tourist sites, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The 1.7 kilometers of tunnels lie over 20 meters below the street level, below the metro lines and even the sewers, and were originally part of the carrières de Paris quarry network built by miners to extract gypsum and limestone. In 1738, nightly ‘processions of bones’ were held, taking the remains of over 6 million people down into the ancient mines.
This year Paris Musées, the organization which manages the Catacombs along with 13 other city museums, has made some significant changes to the museum.
There is now a new exit pavilion located on avenue René Coty which aims to enhance the sensory experience of returning to the light. The exit was designed by Yoonseux whose opalescent light techniques are intended to make the most of a transitory stage between darkness and natural light.
A new gift shop has been added to the Catacombs museum, managed by Arteum books. The selection of books is aimed both at a target audience of amateurs and at those in search of knowledge about the history of the Catacombs and the literary and artistic works inspired by this extraordinary place.
The building works have also added new toilet facilities and increased disabled access to the Catacombs.
New Exhibition: History of Skeletons
In collaboration with INRAP, the International Archeological Research Institute, the catacomb museum has been using archaeological and anthropological methods to find out more about the bones deposited in the ossuary. This exhibition allows a deeper insight into the lives of the people buried in the catacombs, including their age, gender and physical appearance. It also gives a fascinating perspective on the diseases and diets that could be found in 18th century Paris– the same century that the French population overthrew the crown.
The exhibition is open this summer.
From Tuesday till Sunday from 10 am till 8:30 pm
Last admission: 7:30 pm
Catacombs will be open 14 July, 1 November and 11 November.
Closed every Mondays and certain holidays: on 1 May and 15 August.
Admission is 12€, however discounts are available for children and students.
By Theo Gittens
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