Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Visit to the dead "Les Catacombes de Paris"

Photoblog is a different category of sharing which Clinical Hammer was never intended to be the one. Yet I decided to take an exception and share here my visit into the belly of the city of Paris, "les Catacombes de Paris". It is a tunnel museum thing with a huge collections of human bones, roughly estimated to be holding remains of six million people. The bones are bare to touch (although prohibited) and are not behind any kind of glass or other protection.

Due to inadequacy of burial place in and around the city of Paris in 17th century, a decision was made to relocate the bones of those who died long ago in a tunnel system originally related to stone mines. More can be found from wikipedia's link to The Catacombs of Paris.

Place Denfert-Rochereau, Paris

First entry to the dark inside

Better with camera

A building miniature

Stairs, probably leading nowhere

It was a cloudy Saturday when I got out of the subway station of Denfert-Rochereau. I was relying on my smart phone maps so it took me few minutes to find the obvious queue of people waiting to visit city's bone yard. And it took another 90 minutes and a couple of Paul's black coffees before I got my turn. I jumped a couple of times when it finally came though.

Stop, The empire of death starts here

Some historical details

No touching (of bones, obviously and probably other visitors as well) and no smoking
In the start, it felt like we have been cheated as there was an endless number of stairs going down to almost nowhere, and that nowhere was another system of poorly lit tunnels with no signs of the bones. Or perhaps I was impatient to get there so it felt a bit longer than usual. But it was surely scary, so much so that when my shoulder bag scratched on a nearby wall, the noise was enough to cause a little scream from a fellow visitor. Spiced by a couple of sculptures of some buildings, the tunnels finally lost their dullness and monotone and I finally came to stop at an entrance, told to be that of the empire of the dead. Few instructions of not touching stuff and not using flash were put up. And I entered the empire.

Struggling to fight the dark to fix the parameters of photography on my camera, I took some out of focus pictures. And then finally, I got a bit of solitude which tempted me to take photos with flash.

The one taken with flash (guilt???)

The state of bones varies. I spotted some skulls with holes, possibly from injuries or decay while others were in good state. Long bones of limbs were the most frequent finding. I remembered my initial days of medical school when I came across such stuff for the first time. I felt myself different from a layman visitor of this place as I had enough knowledge of bones already, and I didn't get any feelings of dead people getting up and attacking me either.

An HDR failure :)

Flash again

Quotations about the dead, the death and the hereafter were also placed matching to time and place. Different walls and corners of bone collections were stated to the graveyard they belonged to. Apart from the walls and corners built with bones, there was a great piller type place where you can make a round trip of the piller made with bones.

Reference to a graveyard where the bones belong to

Silence becomes deadly (my own translation skills)

Too long to translate

Corner decoration idea, for a drawing room :))

God keeps open his eyes to the just and ears to their prayers

The central decoration

Towards the exit, I saw a high curve and a better maintained tunnel although I frequently saw water tipping through the roof during this 2km long visit, which lasts on an average for 45 minutes. I was searched thoroughly for suspicion of stealing bones, like every other visitor. I wasn't given any special treatment though. A nice gift shop at the exit of the catacombs hosts quite some funny toys and miniatures for remembrance.

As a final note, it is not a horrific place at all, a nice contrast to the romantic image of Paris though. I wouldn't recommend it for honeymooners neither for babymooners. People who visit Paris for the sake of its historical richness and comprehensivity of its attaction will find this place a beauty.

An academic visit of human anatomical interest will be of lesser use as compared to an academic visit of history of parisien graveyards.
Towards exit

wet floor

Thanks for visiting. Don't hesitate to leave a comment if you want.


  1. beauty , One can almost see it through your lens and write up...Thanks for sharing...

    1. Thanks sunil. I am feeling encouraged...

  2. Khalid this was artistic and cool, believe me this is the only thing I have read completely in years, usually I leave things due to my ADHD.

  3. Khalid this was artistic and cool, believe me this is the only thing I have read completely in years, usually I leave things due to my ADHD.

  4. Thanks Khawar. I am obliged. But now, I will be under stress while writing new posts, to keep upto my readership. Keep visiting....

  5. Salman Abdul QayyumMarch 17, 2012 at 12:31 PM

    Fantastic, the blog is more interesting than the bones. Keep it up Larkey. Tera nahin hey.

  6. This is the best website I love it so much its an achi website I mean good website I want to say admin of this site please keep continue this service