Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Catacombs of Paris

I went to the Catacombs on Saturday, and to my dismay, they were less interesting than I expected them to be.

Of course there were lots of bones... but I expected a little more information, I guess.

The entrance to the Catacombs of Paris is an unassuming-looking little green facade off of a busy roundabout. The wait is longer than what it seems like it should be looking at the line. I think they only allow a certain number of people in at a time, so the line moves more slowly than expected.

One you're inside, you pay your way and then go down a spiral staircase for what seems like forever. To the point that you start to get that kind of dizzy-nauseated feeling like you're in vertigo.

However, the bottom of the staircase comes, along with a couple of small rooms with some informational boards. These boards describe how the Catacombs were created when the smaller existing cemetaries posed a problem for city expansion, as well as significant health concerns (the cemetery which was formerly the biggest cemetery in Paris was causing myriad health problems among the neighboring citizens because of improperly buried bodies, mass graves, and the like).

So, bodies from several cemeteries were transferred to the catacombs and artfully (?) displayed. Not that I'm combaring it to the monastery in Rome where they made chandeliers and other designs out of peoples' bones.

There were also these random little pockets into the rock where these sculptures/carvings were done of buildings. Don't know what the buildings are. Reminds me of Petra, though. (Just the concept of a city being carved out of an existing expanse of rock--not that Petra actually looks like this.)

This is a well that allowed the workmen digging the tunnels and transferring the bodies to get to the ground water.

There were dozens of inscriptions like this throughout the catacombs. I enjoyed reading them--they brought a measure of hope to the otherwise depressing feel of the catacombs.
This one in particular reads: "Where is this Death? Always future or past. Just as it comes to be present, it already ceases to be." I thought that was kind of poetic.
Well, there you have it.
There's no institute this week, so my afternoons and evenings will all be free. I'm thinking I'll save later evenings for homework and get another museum pass this week. I can head to a different museum (or two, depending on their size) each day, and then use each afternoon to start making my way around the Louvre. We'll see.

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