I once lived in a rural town that had tens of cemeteries littered around. They hemmed the boundaries of roads in that “look at me, I am here” fashion. Well, I looked, admiring the variety of tombstones and carvings.
The elaborate ones are even more attractive. There are the tall gates that remain unassuming to its visitors. Then, the spacious walkways that only the living appreciate. Meticulous gardening is a plus and when beautified with an array of brightly colored flowers, you almost forget for a second, where you are.
With more people opting for cremation these days, cemeteries are a lost art and this is not the first time. Such open air cemeteries were not always the norm as corpses were once deposited underground. These underground places called catacombs, proved to be very practical in overcrowded towns and cities with high population densities.
Take Paris for example. At a point during the 18th century, its graveyards were overflowing and corpses were piling up, waiting to be buried. Faced with this dilemma, the idea to empty the graves into the underground seemed brilliant. Millions of bones were moved and their current home today is the Catacombs of Paris.
I first read about Paris’ Catacombs in an issue of National Geographic that discussed the underground activities in the City of Light. Thus, with the liberty of using up some spare time during a class trip to Paris, I opted to visit this site and see for myself if the artistry employed underground was comparable to the serene open air cemeteries I had become enamored by.
It came as a surprise to discover an unending queue all around the location and backed up two streets further down. The number of people lined up were enough to fill up all of the Opera Garnier’s audience seats and I couldn’t help but ask:
Why are so many people fascinated with death/bones/skulls?
I finally decided to take pictures of this absurdity.
As you can see, the doors to the Catacombs are nowhere in sight and this was probably after an hour of standing in line.
Well, I guess I would just have to wait and find out for myself. At least I have a magazine to read.
It seems like everything is held up today
This boss is laughing at all of us, Mufasa-style
I actually left the queue to buy this, which by the way cost half of the entry fee to the Catacombs.
…Three hours later, the gate is in sight
Corridor of uncertainty
I found the 200+ steps more daunting than walking down the corridor
There were also notes and images of the locations where the bones were exhumed from
Bones with a message*
Bones interspersed with skulls in a geometric fashion
Bones in a hexagonal form
…And more bones.
By the time I resurfaced into the open air, I was convinced that I had seen enough bones to last me a lifetime. I still prefer the aesthetic appeal of a well laid out open cemetery- tall gates and flowers included- to the architectural display of bones, Roman style, and underground.
Which do you prefer?
*Translation:“Like this all passed on the earth spirit, beauty, grace talent such is a fleeting flower that is overturned by the slightest wind.”