September 13, 2009

Not-so-pretty Paris

It was late in the 18th century, and residents of the Halles district and surrounding areas were sick and tired. Tired because the Metro hadn’t been invented yet, and sick with disease. Increasingly levels of poor health and infection were reported, and the blame lay with the nearby Cemetery of Innocent. Used for nearly 1000 years, it was originally on the outskirts of the city, but due to expansion this insalubrious plot was now crowded and in the middle of the neighbourhood. Nobody enjoys the putrefaction of hundreds of thousands of bodies with their supper, so after multiple complaints, it was decided to exhume the bodies and close the cemetery.

The old underground quarries were selected as the final resting place of these unfortunate Parisian souls. Over 30 years, more than 6 million bodies were moved from a number of cemeteries, under the cover of night and accompanied by priests. The bones were laid out in a “romantic-macabre” style, forming the largest necropolis in the world.

Mum and Dad and I had the afternoon to kill (pardon the pun), so we went underground to escape the heat. Arranged in charming heart-shapes and the typical skull and crossbones, the artistry makes walking through millions of people's graves all the more creepy.

If you're after an alternative to the Tower or churches, check it out. But be warned, the line can be just as long (only 200 people are allowed inside at any one time).

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