From “Blood Tears”:
Ghislain had made Victor a vampire and though their paths crossed over the years they lost contact in the early nineteenth century.
And now he hides in the catacombs like a rat.
Ghislain was not sure which bothered him more, going below ground or being surrounded by the millions of bones that filled the horrid tunnels, exhumed from the overflowing cemeteries in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and dumped into these quarries. Taking a deep breath, he descended the spiral staircase, losing count after one hundred steps. Even for him the darkness felt claustrophobic. He continued to follow the winding walls that dripped with water. The narrow doorway up ahead made him shiver as he read the sign above it:
‘Arrete! C’est ici L’empire de la Mort.’ Stop, Here lies the Empire of the Dead.
Ghislain stepped over the threshold into the narrow passage. The stacks of human bones and skulls have the tunnel a chalky glow.
Peasant and nobleman alike, he thought; everyone ends up in the same place.
Paris has a deeper and stranger connection to its underground than almost any city, and that underground is one of the richest. The arteries and intestines of Paris, the hundreds of miles of tunnels that make up some of the oldest and densest subway and sewer networks in the world, are just the start of it. Under Paris there are spaces of all kinds: canals and reservoirs, crypts and bank vaults, wine cellars transformed into nightclubs and galleries. Most surprising of all are the the old limestone quarries that fan out in a deep and intricate web under many neighborhoods, mostly in the southern part of the metropolis.”
Today the tunnels are roamed by a different clandestine group, a loose and leaderless community whose members sometimes spend days and nights below the city. They’re called people who love the Paris underground.
~ Under Paris, National Geographic Magazine, February, 2011.
Paris’s underground ossuaries hold the remains of six million people. How did such a place come to be and why is it now referred to as “The World’s Largest Grave” with a museum?
Centuries ago, the city abandoned their Left-Bank burial grounds for the higher elevations of the Right – Bank. Soon urban expansion forced the burial ground into the center of urban life which quickly became a health hazard.
Saints Innocents (supposed to be italicized?) church became the City’s main cemetery and soon was overflowing. To continue to make room for the dead, the long-dead were exhumed and their bones packed away into the roofs and walls of the galleries built into the sides of the cemetery walls. By the end of the 19th century, Les Innocents cemetery, which was next door to the Les Halles marketplace, contained a burial mound filled with centuries of the dead and was, needless to say, a health hazard .
The rich limestone of the Left-Bank was used to build most of the city; however the quarries were left depleted, uncharted and abandoned. In the eighteenth century, mine cave-ins led to city inspections and then renovations of some of the passageways. Police Lieutenant-General Alexandre Lenoir was behind the idea of moving the Parisian dead to the newly renovated passageways. The remains of Les Innocents’ cemetery were unearthed and along with bones and other artifacts, a nightly procession of black clothed-covered wagons carried the millions of Parisian dead to their new resting place on the Left-Bank.
The process would take two years! Check out this interactive map of Paris to learn more!