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Visit The Catacombs - Underground Burial Grounds

Updated on September 28, 2011

Take a Trip Underground to The Catacombs and Discover the Dead

Far beneath the city streets of Paris lies the bone remains of more than 6 million people, in an elaborate labyrinth of passages, tunnels and corridors. It is a place of mystery, of intrigue, of history and of death.

One can easily get lost or disoriented when exploring the Parisian Catacombs and become one with the remains of those who are already there.It's a place that people visit to get scared--a perfect spooky location for a Halloween scare or a different type of a vacation.

This lens explores the mysteries of the catacombs in Paris and Rome, the cataphiles and some of the more notable inhabitants and probable inhabitants.

You can also learn about the cataphiles or catacomb explorers.

Photo Source: J.M. Schomburg. Kata Archways. Paris Catacombs - 20m under the wall of the Fermiers-Généraux. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

The Catacombs from Wikipedia

The original catacombs are a network of underground burial galleries beneath San Sebastiano fuori le mura, in Rome. The derivation of the word itself is disputed and it remains unclear if it ultimately derives from the cemetery itself or from the locality in which it is found.

There is no doubt however that the San Sebastiano catacombs are the first to be referred to as such.

The word now refers to any network of caves, grottos, or subterranean place that is used for the burial of the dead, or it can refer to a specific underground burial place.

Source: Wikipedia. The Catacombs.

Photo Source: Austin Evan. Paris Catacombs. Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons.

Catacombs - Defined

Catacombs are a subterranean place, chamber or tunnels used for the burial of the dead.

Catacombs is an underground cemetery, with tunnels and chambers with places for graves an underground tunnel. Many contained recesses where bodies were buried.

Photo Source: Graham and Sheila. Paris Catacombs. Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons.

Sections of this Catacomb Lens

A list of the sections of the Catacombs Lens.

  1. Catacombs in Paris
  2. Cataphiles - Lovers of Catacombs
  3. Catacombs in Rome
  4. Catacombs of Palermo
  5. Phantom of the Opera
  6. Gregorian Masters of Chant
  7. Skulls and Skeletons Decorating the Sedlec Ossuary

The Catacombs of Paris from Wikipedia

The Catacombs of Paris is a famous burial place in Paris, France. It is a network of subterranean tunnels and rooms located in what were Roman-era limestone quarries.

The quarries were converted into a mass tomb near the end of the 18th century. It is home to more than six million Parisians for whom the Catacombs have become a final resting place.

It is most widely known as "the catacombs", but the official title is "les carrières de Paris" or "the quarries of Paris."

Though the official tour only passes through the quarries in the 14th arrondissement, there are actually quarries in the 5th, 6th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th arrondissements (the municipal boroughs of Paris).

Source: Wikipedia. Catacombs of Paris.

Image Source: Vlastimil Juricek. Wikipedia. Wikimedia. Catacombes de Paris. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

The Catacombs of Paris from 1998 - Video

A video of the city of the dead underground the city of lights...Paris from dortmundbrian.

More information on the Catacombs of Paris

Far below the city streets of Paris, in the quiet, damp darkness, seven million Parisians lie motionless. Their skeletons, long since dis-interred from the churchyard graves their survivors left them in, are neatly stacked and aligned to form the walls of nearly one kilometer of walking passage.

Books and Images of the Catacombs of Paris

The Catacombs of Paris - Video

Another video from the catacombs beneath the streets of Paris from the Associated Press.

Define - Cataphiles

Cataphiles, literally lovers of the catacombs, are urban explorers, urban cavers or cave mavericks who illegally tour the abandoned quarries of the Paris catacombs.

The underground quarries in Paris have been off limits since 1955, so the cataphiles must find other ways of accessing the catacombs.

Paris Catacombs: A Search for Truth - Documentary - On YouTube

A few years ago one group of cataphiles found a miniDV camcorder mysteriously abandoned in one of the tunnels. The video the camera captured is eerie. It appears to be video footage from getting frightened or lost in the catacombs of Paris, in what may ultimately be their final hours.

Watch as this documentary tries to trace the cataphile's final steps. The video gives you a good feeling of what it is like to be inside, exploring the catacombs. (I actually felt a bit claustrophobic just watching the video.)

P.S. I *did* wait until day light hours to watch this and it wasn't as scary as I thought it might be, just very eerie.

Cataphiles - Catacomb Explorers

More about Cataphiles, those catacomb explorers that surreptitiously visit the catacombs.

Books on Cataphiles on Amazon

Read more about the catacomb explorers.

Image by Nsanch
Image by Nsanch

Quote from Paris: Journey Into the City of Light

Cataphiles - Catacomb Explorers

Parisian cave mavericks are know as cataphiles -- lovers of catacombs. Because the quarries have been off limits since 1955, "les cataphiles" are pursued in an endless game of cat-and-rat by a special police squad, the Brigade de Dispersion et d'Intervention en Carriere, whose members are nicknamed cataflics - catacomb cops.

Decked out in survival gear, cataphiles will do just about anything go get into the intestine-like quarry passages and chamber 100 feet or more below the city's surface.

They throw drug parties, conduct spooky chthonic rites, play at Phantom of the Oopera, or Jen Valjean escaping the gendarmes.

Whenever bones have fallen into the light-less tunnels from the cemeteries above -- at Pere-Lachaise or Montparnasse, for instance -- hard core cataphiels crawl undaunted over mounds of mouldernig skeletons. Skulls are favorite trophies.


Downie David. Paris, Paris: Journey Into the City of Light. Transatlantic Press. 2005. Paris, Paris: Journey Into the City of Light can be read online at

Photo Source: Neil Sanchala. Paris 162. Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons.

The Catacombs of Rome are ancient Jewish and Christian underground burial places near Rome, Italy.

Etruscans used to bury their dead in underground chambers. Christians revived the practice because they did not want to cremate their dead due to their belief in bodily resurrection.

Hence they began to bury their dead, first in simple graves and sometimes in burial vaults of pro-Christian patricians.

The first large-scale catacombs were excavated from the 2nd century onwards. Originally they were carved through soft rock outside the boundaries of the city, because Roman law forbade burial places within city limits. At first they were used both for burial and the memorial services and celebrations of the anniversaries of Christian martyrs (following similar Roman customs). They probably were not used for regular worship.

Many modern depictions of the catacombs show them as hiding places for Christian populations during times of persecution. This is unlikely, however, since the large numbers of decaying corpses would have made the air nearly (if not completely) toxic. Additionally, the general locations of the catacombs were known to the Roman officials, making them a poor choice for a secret hiding place.

Source: Wikipedia. Catacombs of Rome.

Photo Source: Malleson, Hope & Tuker, M.A.R.: "Rome" (1905) A Procession in the Catacomb of Callistus. Public Domain.

The Catacombs of Rome on YouTube

Unlike the Catacombs in Paris, these catacombs had no bones. However, it was a rather amazingly intricate and extensive network of tunnels.

This one has tens of thousands of bodies interred in it's time. All the half arches you see in this video held a body or two (or more); the tiny spaces held children.

Our Perillo Tours Familia walked single file down these narrow corridors.

Curious to know more about the Catacombs? - Catacomb Books Available on Amazon

These books on the Catacombs of Rome are a good place to start for more information.

More on the Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo

Capuchins' Catacombs located in Palermo, Italy. Thousands of mummified corpses line the walls like paintings.

More on the Catacombs of Palermo and Mummies

The Phantom of the Opera

The Paris Catacombs Famous Inhabitant

Erik, the Phantom of the Opera, the Opera Ghost, is a musical genius, who because of his physical deformity he masks his face. The Phantom lives far beneath the Paris Opera house in the depths of the catacombs, residing in a secret home by an underground lake.

The Phantom of the Opera may be one of the most famous inhabitants of the catacombs. Many of the scenes in the book, play and the movie occur underground, in the catacombs.

Phantom of the Opera - The Unmasking - On YouTube

The infamous inhabitant of the city beneath the streets of Paris, the catacombs.

Music of the Catacombs - Gregorian Chanting

When I think of music of the Catacombs, I think back to a time when the original builders and users of the Catacombs lived.

  • * The Parisian Catacombs are originally located in limestone quarries from the Roman Era.
  • * The First Roman Catacombs were were excavated from the 2nd century onwards.
  • * The Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo started in the 16th century by monks when the monastery outgrew its original cemetery and crypts were excavated below the monastery.
For me the type of music that comes to mind is the chanting style of monks, probably because the sound would sound good and echo within the catacombs.

I have included some information on the Gregorian and on Gregorian Chants.

Gregorians - Masters of Chant

Gregorian Masters of Chant is a German male choir who sing medieval-inspired, re-interpreted pop and rock music. Frank Peterson is the mastermind behind the group's unique, haunting and moving sound.

Gregorian's style is a blend of modern pop and rock songs re-interpreted in the Gregorian Masters of Chant style. The group has brought the plainsong* or plainchant style of singing into a modern setting, delighting audiences that span the generations.

Gregorian Masters of Chant dress in medieval monk-styles robes and records their music accompanied by an orchestra in old churches converted into recording studios. Their live concerts have been performed in old castles.

Image Source: Gregorian Master of Chant. Downloads.

Gregorian - Masters of Chant on YouTube

A collection of Videos from Gregorian, Masters of Chant.

Masters of Chant Albums - Available on Amazon

The Sedlec Ossuary is a small Roman Catholic chapel, located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic.

The ossuary contains approximately 40,000 human skeletons which have been artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel.

Source: Wikipedia. Sedlec Ossuary.

Photo Source: Wikipedia. Wikimedia. Daniel Wabyick. Bone Chandelabra.

Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Ossuary - Defined

An Ossuary is a "bone box," a depository for the bones of the dead. It is also known as a charnel house, a chest, building, well, or site made to serve as the final resting place of human skeletal remains.

It is frequently a building below ground level, usually an annex to a tomb, for the storage of human bones moved out of the tomb to make room for fresh interments.

More about the Ossuary Chapel of All Saints in Sedlec

In 1142, a monastery was founded in the town of Sedlec, in what is now the Czech Republic. People flocked to be buried or bury others on this small parcel of land.

In 1870, an effort was made to increase the space necessary to allow others to be buried on this property. The skulls and bones of forty thousand people were used to decorate a small chapel built on the site in the fourteenth century.

Mark Elbroch

Animal Skulls: A Guide to North American Species

Skulls and Skeletons Decorating the Sedlec Ossuary on YouTube

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Have you been to any of the Catacombs or Bone decorated Locations?

Would you want to?

Reader Feedback on the Catacomb Lens - Your place for feedback, thoughts, stories and suggestions

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    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      8 years ago from UK

      I'm not sure I'd be brave enough. Then again, it would be a tale to tell! This is a fascinating if spooky look at catacombs and it was interesting to learn about cataphiles.

    • Bella Stella profile image

      Bella Stella 

      8 years ago

      Catacombs are spooky!

      But this lens is great.

      Learn about ancient Greek cemetary of Keramikos Athens when you got time

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image


      10 years ago

      I've been in the catacombs in Rome, (it was years ago) but I've never been to Paris. Someday...

      Great lens.


    • profile image


      11 years ago

      very intersting lens. Maybe we should have a catacomb in the US. Where do you think it should be appropriate?

      from fellow lens: bigsaveontravel

    • irishlass lm profile image

      irishlass lm 

      11 years ago


    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      11 years ago

      Beautifully done! I've been to the catacombs in Rome and would love to see the ones in Paris someday.

    • blondeheroine profile image


      11 years ago

      This lens is amazing!! I always associate the catacombs with Phantom, but this adds a whole new level of creepy. I've favorited it so I can go back and watch the videos when it isn't dark. Eeek!

    • Arizona-Snow profile image


      11 years ago

      Wow! Yet another great lens from an excellent lensmaster! 5*!

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 

      11 years ago from USA

      I found this lens so interesting! Thank you for adding it to the Gothic Temptations Group! Keep 'em coming!


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