Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Underworld

I think the first time I found the entrance to the catacombs, I was rather proud of myself. It's not exactly well-known, unless you are a tourist obsessed with the macabre.

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It's a small, unassuming doorway that looks like it might be the entrance of a storage shed. Instead of gardening tools, you get to start your journey down, down, down into the depths of Paris.

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The black line on the ceiling was painted there for early adventures into the quarry so one might not end up joining the souls of those already calling the catacombs their home.

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There are sculptures of palaces down there, done by a quarryman by the name of D├ęcure, all done by memory, who later died in a quarry collapse.

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In these ancient stone quarries, the air still and damp, the tunnels are lined with the bones of more than six million Parisians. They were all taken from their graves and stacked up rather artfully starting in the late 18th century, where the overflowing cemeteries were causing disease among the Parisian living.

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The bones are stacked rather artfully and orderly to form walls of nameless graves. Walking through, you get the sense of absolute isolation from the world above, and perhaps the urge to hasten your steps past the unseeing eyes of the countless dead.

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