Twenty meters down
One hundred thirty steps
Fifty seven degrees
One hundred eighty six miles
It’s the second city
Called the Empire of Death
Chambers and hallways
Connected by bones
Thousands upon thousands
Carefully placed in patterns
Others strewn like trash
Journey across the skeleton sea
Some say seven million
Bodies laid to rest
And so many secrets
Some old, others emerging
Hidden in the empty sockets
Of half hidden skulls
And you can take a tour….
The Dark Underworld of Paris
Hidden beneath the streets of Paris, France are the remains of over 6 million people. The Paris Catacombs are a network of caves, tunnels, and old quarries that stretch for hundreds of miles. Many of the walls are ornately lined with the hardened bones of those long-dead souls.
The Catacombs can be traced back to the Roman Empire and the limestone quarries outside of the city. Early builders removed the limestone for many of the buildings in the city. Later, during the 18th Century these limestone mines were transformed into underground crypts. The growth of Paris as a metropolitan area dramatically added to the number of dead each year. The main cemeteries quickly became overwhelmed, leading to corpses being abandoned or improperly buried. The resulting stench of decayed flesh and disease were affecting the populace.
The final straw was when the supporting wall around the largest Parisian Cemetery, Les Innocents, collapsed in 1780. The cemetery was elevated and when heavy spring rains soaked the ground past the saturation point, it was like a bursting dam. Bones and bodies spilled out into the neighboring land, turning the holy place into a nightmare. Many former quarries were consecrated and blessed by the church in 1786, making them the first of many catacombs. After nearly two years of work, all of the bones and remaining bodies from Les Innocents were transferred to their new resting place. Over the next twenty years, bones from other overcrowded French burial grounds were also transferred. The heavy casualties of the French Revolution saw for the first time, newly deceased being laid to rest in the catacombs.
The tunnels combined total about 200 linear miles with some areas not mapped out and are on average about 50 feet below the city streets. Public tours are offered daily, but in a very limited area. Many people have taken it upon themselves to make the catacombs a place of their own over the years. About a decade ago, the special police unit which patrols the catacombs found the remains of a fully functioning “movie theater” set up, complete with a dining area and bar. It was thought to be a debut area for underground (no pun intended) films. Many fans of the macabre have done photo shoots and even made adult videos deep within the tunnels, although all activities such as this are illegal.
Off the record, people have a way of finding the resources to get what they want. It’s commonly known that a group of people who call themselves the Catophiles exist. This group supposedly numbers in the low hundreds and are believed to know of all the secret entrances throughout the city as well as how to access the hidden levels, some which are reported to go as far as 500 feet below ground.
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