21. The Road To Hell – Entering the Catacombs

“Où est-elle la mort ? Toujours future ou passée. A peine est-elle présente, que déjà elle n’est plus.” – inscription, Paris catacombs

This week we’re drilling deeeeeeep into the history of Paris, all the way through the layers of modern construction, past the detritus of two thousand years of civilization, all the way into the primordial past. Where modern-day Paris now sits there was once an ocean, whose seashells and skeletons collected and compressed into a precious material: limestone. Over time, these ancient animal fossils were scraped, chiseled and hewn out of the bedrock, and formed the very foundation of a great city. Notre Dame cathedral, the Palais-Royal, the Louvre – all of these great monuments got their start deep in the earth, drawing on the bones of the sea. Today we’ll learn about the startling moment 200 years ago, when the city – and her bones – began making their way back home.


Episode 21: “The Road To Hell”


Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris – Graham Robb

“Spending Time Among The Bones of Paris’s Catacombs” Mental Floss, Erin McCarthy

“Under Paris” National Geographic, Neil Harris, November 2002

“Paris Catacombs” Atlas Obscura

“Beneath Paris’s City Streets, There’s An Empire of Death Waiting For Tourists” Smithsonian, Natasha Geiling


Further Reading:

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