Loving life in Paris’ Empire of the Dead
2012-08-13 0:00

By Amanda Sealy and Samantha Weihl | CNN.com

Beneath the streets of the City of Light lies a world draped in darkness and shrouded in silence. The tunnels are narrow, the ceilings are low and death is on display.

The skulls and bones lining the walls, arranged in a macabre fashion, make up what is known as the Empire of the Dead -- the Catacombs of Paris.

The catacombs snake below the city, a 321-kilometer (200-mile) network of old quarries, caves and tunnels.

Some Parisians are drawn to this largely uncharted territory -- a hidden network of adventure, discovery and even relaxation. They are known as ’cataphiles’ and the catacombs are their playground.

It is a top-secret group. Catacomb entrances are known only to those daring enough to roam the networks on their own -- and break the law.


The remains of more than six million people are buried in a vast network of tunnels below Paris, France.

Entering unauthorized sections of the catacombs is illegal and a police force is tasked with patrolling the tunnels, and caught cataphiles risk fines of up to 60 euros ($73).

But for explorers like Loic Antoine-Gambeaud and his friends, it is a risk they are willing to take.

"I think it’s in the collective imagination. Everybody knows that there is something below Paris; that something goes on that’s mysterious. But I don’t think many people have even an idea of what the underground is like," Antoine-Gambeaud said.

For those who want to find out, but are not willing to take the risk of going in unsupervised, there is a legal, tourist-friendly public entrance to the catacombs off Place Denfert-Rochereau. Visitors from around the world will queue up to see death on display.

"I think people are fascinated with death," one visitor said. "They don’t know what it’s about and you see all these bones stacked up, and the people that have come before us, and it’s fascinating. We’re trying to find our past and it’s crazy and gruesome and fun all at the same time."

But experiencing the history of Paris in an orderly fashion is not the cataphiles’ style.

Underground, there are plaques echoing the street names above etched into the walls, helping the cataphiles navigate.

Often equipped only with head lamps and homemade maps, they explore the tunnels and ancient rooms, sometimes staying underground for days at a time.


Parts of the catacomb network date back to medieval times.


They throw parties, drink wine, or just relax in a silence they say can’t be experienced anywhere else.

The catacombs are a by-product of Paris’ early development. Builders dug deep underground to extract limestone to build Paris above ground.

But the subterranean quarries that were formed proved to be a shaky foundation for the city, causing a number of streets to collapse and be swallowed up by the ground.

Eventually, repairs and reinforcements were made, and to this day, the tunnels and quarries are still monitored for safety.

The quarries went through several transformations throughout history. Over time, they have served as everything from hiding places for revolutionaries to mushroom farms.

In the 18th century the Catacombs became known as the Empire of the Dead.

[...]

Read the full article at: cnn.com






Related Articles
7 Underground Wonders of the World: Labyrinths, Crypts, Catacombs and More
Unique Burial: Bizarre ’cow woman’ found in Anglo-Saxon dig
Bones of 200 soldiers from time of Christ so well preserved in bog that their DNA can be studied
John the Baptist’s Bones Found?
The Good Death: Making Death Part of Your Life


Latest News from our Front Page

The Divorce Industry
2015-08-03 21:07
Yes, that’s right. The “Divorce Industry”. There is an actual industry dedicated to making large sums of money off of people’s divorces. A 50 billion dollar industry to be exact. Unfortunately, I’m not too shocked about this one. What I was shocked about, however, was the amount of people that are using these “services”. I’m sure ...
An Open Letter to #Cuckservatives
2015-08-01 2:32
You aren’t just betraying your principles. Dear Cuckservative, You are not alone. Like you, Erick Erickson at RedState.com, Matt Lewis at the Daily Caller, Taylor Millard at Hot Air, the blogger Ace of Spades, and Jim Harper with the Cato Institute are all squirming under the lash of this new coinage. They are squirming because a single word–cuckservative–lays bare the rot at the ...
Aurora Shooting Victim Parents Face $200K Court Fees, Bankruptcy, After Failing to Sue Ammo Dealers
2015-08-01 2:17
The 2012 Colorado Theater Shooting still doesn’t add up… Media character and ‘Shooter’ James Holmes in court in 2012-2013. In 2014, Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, the mother and stepfather of Aurora Theater Shooting victim Jessica Redfield Ghawi, tried to sue the ammo companies they believe supplied shooter James Holmes with his ammunition, body armor and other items. They bleived that the online retailer BulkAmmo.com had sold Holmes ...
FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force Investigating Confederate Flags at MLK's Ebenezer Baptist Church
2015-08-01 2:21
According to the Atlanta Police Department, two White men left four small Confederate Battle Flags outside MLK’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta … and get this, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is on the scene investigating the incident. Atlanta police Chief George Turner said his agency was working with federal authorities and they have not determined what charges might be ...
Democratic National Committee Chair Wasserman Schultz Can’t Explain Difference Between Democrat Party and Socialism
2015-08-01 2:08
Things got very awkward today when Chris Matthews asked DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz what the difference was between the modern Democratic Party and Socialism. We haven’t seen that dazed look since Rachel Dolezal was busted as a fraud. Wasserman Schultz was speechless. Completely stumped. Couldn’t answer. Then changed the subject. Because we all know there is no difference between today’s Democrat Party and the radical ...
More News »