The top of my to-do list for Paris was The Catacombs. I was lucky, the girl I met up with gladly joined me. We both had a to-do list and we compromised to make what I think is a perfect Paris experience. I have split up this amazing time into several posts. Paris just has so much to do!
Catacombs: Death was never so pretty
There Catacombs were eerie, beautiful and haunting. Make sure to GET THE AUDIO GUIDE and bring a sweater! It literally would not make any sense without the audio guide. It would just be silence and dead bodies. Also it is chilly down there any time of year. I would say this sight is a must-see for your Paris itinerary.
The history of the catacombs is interesting. It was a limestone quarry but Paris was becoming so overpopulated that the Les Innocentes cemetery was overflowing. The smell of death reeked in the streets near the cemetery. However the church wanted the bodies to remain in peace so it took a long time for the city to cope with the stench. Then in 1780, a springtime rain made the wall of the Les Innocentes cemetery collapse. Finally the city decided to move the bodies.
The tunnels under the city seemed like the perfect places for the bodies. In 1786, the cemetery began being emptied into the limestone quarry. It took 12 years to move the ~6 million bodies to the Catacombs. During the French Revolution, war casualties were directly put into the catacombs and there are monuments to memorialize them.
The Catacombs are 200 miles but only about a mile( ~ 45 minutes) are open to the public. The depth of the Catacombs is about 5 story buildings. Sadly this makes it almost inaccessible to those with handicaps.
Pere Lachaise Cemetery is where the rich and famous lie
Pere Lachaise Cemetery is a beautiful cemetery with the most wealthy and famous Parisians entombed. Of course Jim Morrison is the most famous. People crowded around the grave. One man was sketching and smoking a joint. A woman was weeping. Most people stared in awe, of being in the presence of the iconic rock god. It was amazing. His grave is walled off and behind several more prominent stones. His grave is one of the most understated in the cemetery. It is by far the most iconic in the whole cemetery.
The second most visited grave is Oscar Wilde. His original tombstone was desecrated. A new tombstone designed by Jacob Epstein. There are lipstick marks all over the stone as an ode to his famous quote, “A kiss may ruin a human life.” However the oils from all the lipstick stained erode the stone. So now there is a barrier to prevent the fans lips from destroying yet again another tombstone.
There is also Modigliani, Balzac, Proust, Gertrude Stein, Edith Pilaf and more buried there. Aside from the famous people there are some phenomenal tombstones. There are giant statues and tombs with incredible artwork all through the graveyard. It is also beautiful, quiet and a great place for a picnic.
All in all i didn’t mean to hang out so many dead people, however Paris simply has a great collection of dead people. I would put both of these as much-sees. They seem morbid but they both have romantic notions to understand and glorify death.