Paris Catacombs Ossuary – A Brief History

The Paris Catacombs contain a vast underground storage site for bones, considered one of the largest globally and located beneath the bustling city. 

Before being made accessible to the public in 1809, the ossuary underwent significant and comprehensive improvement in appearance.

Inspector Héricart de Thury directed the effort. He approached the renovation with artistic sensibility and focused on creating a lasting impact. 

In 1810 Héricart de Thury’s clever marketing brochure made the Paris Catacombs a macabre and mysterious place to visit in the city.

Before this transformation, the bones were roughly dumped in the tunnels. 

However, later the quarrymen meticulously placed the bones in various shapes with arrows on the ceiling to guide visitors.

Exploring the Mysterious Paris Catacombs Ossuary

The outside of the Catacombs in Paris has rows of skulls and leg bones, and more bones are stacked behind them. 

They made this ossuary in Paris, France feel like old buildings by adding columns, altars, and tombs along the paths. 

Different parts of the Catacombs have names inspired by religion, romantic stories, or histories, such as the Lacrymatory Sarcophagus, Samaritan Fountain, and Sepulchral Lamp.

Héricart de Thury put two cabinets that look like old cabinets of exciting things. 

One cabinet had rocks and minerals, and the other had examples of bone problems that Dr. Michel-Augustin Thouret found in 1789. 

They also put signs with religious and poetry sayings in different places so that you can think about life and death. 

People have studied a lot about the underground Catacombs in Paris.

If you want to experience these mysterious ossuaries up close, book your tickets before they sell out. Book now!

Discoveries After Unveiling Paris Catacombs Ossuary

After it was first shown to the public, two French Museum of Natural History experts did some vital work. 

Jacques Maheu, a botanist (he studied plants), looked at the plants growing underground without any sunlight. 

At the same time, Armand Viré, who knew much about caves and nature (a speleologist and naturalist), found some fascinating animals – crustaceans – living in the shelters.

Something interesting happened in 1813. 

Héricart de Thury, who helped change the Catacombs, put four goldfish in the Samaritan Fountain’s basin to see what would happen. 

The fish managed to stay alive but had trouble making babies, and their eyesight worsened.

Then, in 1861, a photographer named Félix Tournachon, who people called Nadar, did a particular project. 

He photographed the Paris Catacombs at a time when artificial lighting was new and hence rare. 

It took a lot of patience to use mannequins and Bunsen batteries for Felix to photograph this empire of death.

Paris Catacombs Over The Years 

The meaning of the term “Paris Catacombs” has changed over time. 

Initially, it referred to the transformed quarry ossuary from the 1700s. 

But now, people use it more broadly to discuss the underground quarry network beneath Paris and sometimes beyond the city’s borders.

Preserving The Past of this Paris Ossuary

Even today, researchers continue to study diseases and health problems related to bones, especially when working to strengthen and secure the ossuary. 

Keeping the bones safe from damp underground conditions is a difficult task. 

Respecting these human remains and protecting their geological, archaeological, and historical importance is important. 

The Paris Catacombs face ongoing challenges in doing so.

If you’re intrigued by the mystery of this ossuary in Paris, you must plan a visit and see this marvel up close. Book tickets now!


Are the Paris catacombs an ossuary? 

Yes, the Paris Catacombs are an ossuary. To alleviate overcrowding, they hold the remains of approximately six to seven million people transferred from various cemeteries in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

What is the difference between an ossuary and a Catacomb? 

An ossuary is a place or container for storing human skeletal remains, often after exhumation. On the other hand, a Catacomb refers to an underground burial site, typically consisting of tunnels and chambers, where remains may be placed, as seen in the Paris Catacombs. The Paris Catacombs can be categorized as both. 

Can you take a bone from the Catacombs? 

No, taking bones from the Paris catacombs ossuary is not allowed. The site is protected and considered a historical monument. Removing bones or any other items from the Catacombs is illegal and disrespectful.

What are the bones in the Paris Catacombs from?

The bones in the Paris Catacombs come from the transfer of skeletal remains from various cemeteries in the city. These remains were moved due to health concerns arising from overcrowded cemeteries. The Catacombs hold bones from various individuals, representing different historical periods.

Featured Image: Catacombes.paris.fr

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