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Why Didn’t They Include the Paris Catacombs?


I’m not sure if you saw the recent Yahoo Travel “10 Best Places to Explore the Underworld.”

They were very cool places and if you are a dedicated traveler, some (if not all) seem to be great places to visit.

Paris Catacombs. Photo by Dan Owen.
Paris Catacombs. Photo by Dan Owen.

However, I’m baffled as to why the Paris Catacombs were not included.
The underground “city” of Seattle was included. The subterranean system of the Fremantle, Australia prison was touted. The Colosseum Hypgeum (basically, the “basement” of the Rome Colosseum) where the gladiators and animals waited before ascending to the arena is included.

At least Paris made the list and was represented by the Canal Saint-Martin. The canal is part of an 81-mile network of canals. First started by Napoleon in 1802 to bring fresh water to the city, it was not completed until 1825. It was funded by a new tax on wine (now that’s one way to get the French to demonstrate). This canal connects the Canal de l’Ourcq and the Seine. There are nine locks and two swinging bridges.

During Baron Haussmann’s “little re-ordering” of the Paris landscape in the mid-1800’s, the canal was covered from the Bastille and Avenue de la République. The Blvd. Richard-Lenoir and Blvd. Jules Ferry were created. Today, the boat ride will take you 1.5 miles in the subterranean vaulted canal. You will travel beneath the area where the Bastille once stood.

I’m not sure why a boat ride 1.5 miles long that goes under a street would have taken priority over going down into the Catacombs, a 1,864 mile tunnel network that runs under the entire city. The bones of over six million people are stacked in the Catacombs. These are the remains of the folks that were buried in the city’s mass graves (as was the norm way back starting with the Romans). The burial pits overflowed with bodies from the French Revolution and those remains were eventually transferred to the Catacombs. Each cemetery is identified underground.

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