Beneath the elegance of Paris is a deep dark secret that many visitors miss. Little do they know they could be literally walking over someone’s grave. The Paris Catacombs is known for their seemingly endless tunnels that hold the remains of millions of reinterred Parisians long passed.
In fact, the Catacombs run for over 200 miles beneath the streets, twisting and turning with the tunnels filled to the brim with bones. The network of tunnels, caves and quarries are so complicated that even with markers placed on the walls, one could easily become lost. Dark and musty in some places with muted lighting. If the lights go out, pitch black darkness would envelope and scare the living dickens out of the bravest soul.
Visiting the Catacombs is notorious for the long lines as they limit the amount of people allowed in the tunnels at a time. The smart visitor will arrange pre-purchased timed tickets which are available on their website. Granted the website is entirely in French, but you can muddle through with Google translate for purchase. You receive an e-ticket which I printed and presented for entry at the allotted time.
At the beginning, a quiet and dark tunnel leads for about a half a mile before actually reaching the first entry into the resting place. So walk with me…if you dare and let’s begin our tour of the Paris Catacombs.
Once you arrive the entry, respect for the dead is requested. Subdued voices and stepping gently we entered into the tunnel of bones not knowing what emotion overtook first. Shock, fear, dread, respect for those long gone.
As a photographer, you can imagine the challenges the extremely low light conditions that I had to work in. Using both my iPhone 7 and the Canon 5D Mark IV with the 24-205mm lens, I attempted to capture some of the sights we came across. Having to crank up the ISO to the extreme 32,000 that only gave me 1/20 of a second all I could do was thank all the years of practice of holding my camera steady. No tripods or monopods are allowed here.
Actually the iPhone did a pretty darn good job and I am able to share with you this slide show of some of the artistic renditions created with the human remains.
We did have to wonder just how the men (and perhaps women) managed to deal with such a morbid and creepy job that took years to complete. Think about what it took to move the remains from their original resting place and then to the catacombs to then become, what one might say a work of art. In fact, we are sure lots of good French wine was involved.