"Hauntingly Beautiful Bones"

Catacombes de Paris

The origins and secrets of the Catacombs of Paris are fascinating. Its gruesome history begins in the 1700s. Paris as a city had grown over many generations, and the dead were beginning to pile up. Cemeteries around the city were old, condemned and overflowing. Following the gruesome collapse of several basement walls at Saint Innocents-cemetery, it became apparent that something had to be done. Louis XVI decreed that the long-abandoned mine shafts lying beneath the Paris streets would be the perfect resting place for Paris’s dead. Exhuming over 6 million bodies from the city’s condemned cemeteries the remains of millions of people were loaded into covered wagons and transported under cover of darkness to the abandoned mine shafts.

A Novelty of the Elite

Initially, the workers simply piled the bones in the mines cavernous halls. There the dead remained, largely forgotten for many years. Then in the 1800s, Louis Etienne Hericart de Thury began transforming the catacombs into a grotesquely beautiful location. Later, the catacombs found new life as a grisly private event location for Paris’s elite, hosting cocktails and concerts within its haunting halls. Eventually, the Catacombs of Paris were opened to the public following a final renovation in 1874.

Cryptic Cinema

In addition to the creepiness of piled bones, another mystery surrounds the catacombs. In 2004, police were conducting training in a previously uncharted portion of the catacombs. Then they came across a surprising secret in a previously uncharted part of the catacombs. Deep within the caverns, they found a fully equipped theatre, tavern and restaurant. Complete with professionally installed telephones, electrical outlets and lighting, this previously unknown complex baffled the police. Speculation abounds even today as to its use. Some speculate that the presence of swastikas, celtic crosses, and Stars of David suggest a perplexingly schizophrenic sects meeting area. Perhaps most creepy of all, police returned a few days after the initial discovery to find the electrical and telephone lines cut and a note which read “Do not try to find us.”

Shooting the Catacombes de Paris

First, lighting is going to be the big challenge at this location.  The dimly lit catacombs are challenging to shoot. Like most historic places flash photography, tripods or large bags are not welcome. Because of this, we recommend bringing a camera with high ISO, a fast lens, and a flashlight (like the one in your smartphone). Secondly, travelling with a friend is a good idea. Besides just moral support, they can also hold the light while photographing the bones and skulls.  Finally, because it is popular with tourists, we recommend buying your tickets ahead of time from their website here.

We feature the very best photo locations from around the world on our blog. Discover this location and 15,000+ more in the PIXEO App for iOS. 

Other Amazing Photo Locations

Latest Locations Added to the PIXEO App