Warning: this post is not for those with sensitive dispositions.
The kids and I had gone once already to visit the catacombs, but there was a super long line and it was raining. We decided to leave and return shortly after opening the next day. This was the line the next day:
It took almost two hours to get through it! Good grief. I swear, the lines have definitely been longer at museums and monuments this time around. Anyway, Max was good to engage Eva in some hand games to keep the whining at bay. And at least it wasn't raining!
Finally, we got in. We walked down a very long spiral staircase, and then through lots and lots of tunnels. Eva took the lead, to my surprise. She didn't seem nervous at all.
It was much darker than this most of the time.
More like this. (photo by Eva)
After the tunnels, we came to this sign: "Stop! This is the empire of the dead."
The remains of 6 million Parisians were moved from cemeteries around the city to the catacombs, mostly in the 19th century. There were processions, presided over by priests, who blessed the remains and ensured that there was no desecration.
There are lanterns every so often, and the lighting is very dim. It's hard to get photos that turn out. The atmosphere is very hushed, almost like people are afraid to talk out loud. It is a bit creepy, but mostly just really interesting. Everywhere you look, there are piles of bones. So many alleyways that branch off from each other, many of them fenced off. (The tunnels even have street names!) Bones as far as the eye can see. The bones of 6,000,000 is really, really a lot of bones.
They are arranged in neat rows, sometimes with different patterns like hearts or crosses. Max tells me this is because it was created during the Romantic period.
It seems like it would have taken forever to arrange them in these careful, neat stacks, but I guess it would have also been an efficient use of space, and probably more respectful than dumping them in piles.
Also - and I mean no disrespect - when viewed from afar, the patterns remind me of stockinette stitch in knitting. (Anyone?)
"The death of His saints is precious in the Savior's eyes."
Periodically, there are placards with scriptures and quotes about death.
I think these almost look like paintings.
It was unusual to see skulls that still had teeth.
Honestly, the worst part was climbing the spiral staircase to get out. The boys went first, then Eva, and I brought up the rear. It was narrow, dark, and highly claustrophobic. We kept encouraging Eva to keep going, but I think I may have been the most relieved when we finally reached the top!