underneath the city of Paris, France.
By the 18th century, Parisian cemeteries such as Les Innocents (the largest cemetery in Paris) were becoming overpopulated, giving rise to improper burials, open graves, and unearthed corpses. Quite naturally, people living close to such places began complaining about the strong stench of decomposing flesh and the spread of diseases from the> cemeteries.
In 1763, an edict was issued by Louis XV banning all burials from the capital. The Church, however, did not wish to disturb or move the cemeteries, and opposed the edict. As a result, nothing was done. The situation persisted until 1780, when an unusually long period of spring rain caused a wall around the Les Innocents to collapse, resulting in the spilling of rotting corpses into a neighboring property. By this time, the French authorities were forced to take action.
Bones were exhumed and arranged in the existing subterranean tunnels of the city’s ancient> quarry.
Sign <above the> doorway.
During the 1970s and 80s, the catacombs have been explored illegally by Parisian urban explorers known as Cataphiles.
Slideshow> People who have been exploring the uncharted areas of the catacombs are known as>“Les Cataphiles”meaning “the underground lovers”<from Philippe Ory.
Some of the spaces have even been restored and turned into creative spaces. One of these underground caverns, for instance, was transformed into a secret amphitheater, complete with a giant cinema screen, projection equipment, a couple of films and seats. The neighboring area was revamped into a fully-stocked bar and a restaurant, perhaps where the patrons of the amphitheater could get a snack or a> meal.
BY THOR JENSEN: Underneath the streets of Paris stretch over 200 miles of tunnels, caves and catacombs, used for a variety of fascinating purposes. Originally hollowed out for limestone when the city was being built, the Paris catacombs have been used for corpse disposal, mushroom farming, and hideouts for the French resistance during World War II. They were closed to the public in 1955, but a whole subculture of cataphiles has arisen around the underground city. Explorers have renovated tunnels, built living areas and even hosted art exhibitions in the Paris catacombs. A team of French officials monitors the structural integrity of the remaining quarry walls, as they have been known to cave in and take whole neighborhoods on the surface with them.
Legend <of Philibert Aspairt
It has been estimated that as many as 300> Cataphiles enter the catacombs each week via secret entrances. Non-Cataphiles and tourists, however, are not often welcome.
> The City of the Sea
The> secrecy of the catacomb networks, and the opportunity to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city above, are attractive concepts to the Cataphiles, and they would probably not let go of their haunts so> easily.