Catacombs in Paris

Umbrella likes nothing more than a good subterranean passageway. When the excellent Boing Boing pointed us to an article in Brick magazine about people who spend lots of their time exploring the Paris catacombs, we thought we'd better share it with you. Here's an excerpt.

Honeycombed across 1,900 acres of the city, the vast majority of the tunnels are not strictly speaking “catacombs.” They house no bones. Limestone (and, to the north of the city, gypsum) quarries, these are the mines that built Paris. The oldest date back two thousand years to Roman settlers, but most were excavated in the construction boom of the late Middle Ages, providing the stone that became Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre. Riddling the Left Bank, these tunnels were at first beyond the city’s southern limits. But as Paris’s population grew, so did the city—and soon whole neighbourhoods were built on this infirm ground.

The first major cave-in happened in 1774, when an entire street collapsed not far from where the Catacombs Museum stands today. After a similar incident three years later, King Louis XVI created the office of the Inspection Générale de Carrières (IGC, or General Inspection of the Quarries), designated with preventing further collapses. Officials went underground: inspecting, charting, filling chambers with concrete, digging a new labyrinth of maintenance tunnels.

Then came the dead.

Read the rest of it here, at Brick magazine.

Pic: National Geographic

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