In the last blog we talked about St Leonard’s Church and how it reminded us of the Parisian Catacombs. So we thought we’d look at the catacombs in more depth – particularly as for us, the catacombs are a big influence on how we developed our brand.
The Catacombs of Paris, like St Leonard’s Church, is an ossuary (the final resting place for skeletal remains). The Catacombs hold the remains of around six million people, which dwarfs St Leonard’s 4,000. It’s an astonishing collection of bones and skulls, not only because of the sheer number involved, but because of their intricate design and arrangement.
The Catacombs were created as a way of dealing with the dead. In Roman times Parisians would bury their dead outside of the city. When Christianity began to grow in popularity it meant that burials started to be carried out within the city, as the dead had to be laid to rest in consecrated ground. During the 10th-12thcenturies, Paris’ population grew rapidly. Cemeteries quickly became overcrowded, which in turn meant that only the wealthy tended to receive a church burial.
In the 12thcentury a central cemetery – Saints Innocents Cemetery – was opened for those who couldn’t afford to have a church burial. The cemetery essentially became a mass grave – and a big problem. By the 17thcentury the cemetery was overflowing. The massive number of decaying bodies in the ground began to affect the well water which the city survived on.
They needed a new solution for putting the dead to rest. The government decided they would need to use the abandoned stone quarries which lay underneath the city. In 1786 they began to move the skeletal remains to these abandoned underground caverns. It was then that the catacombs began to take shape. At first they were just a place to store the remains, but in 1810, they started to be transformed into their current form, with bones organised to create elaborate walls and displays comprised of the remains.
Inside the Catacombs , at the ossuary entrance, is an inscription which reads - ‘Arrête, c'est ici l'empire de la Mort’ (Stop, this is the Empire of Death). The Empire of Death. It’s such a ridiculously good warning, and the more we thought about it, the more we felt we could use that phrase to represent a lot of the ideas and concepts our brand stands for. We thought about the Empire of Death, as a place where the dead would be remembered, immortalised. Beautifully arranged in their macabre splendour.
If you get the chance to go – make sure you do. Paris has some amazing sights and attractions, but this is one you should definitely take the time to visit – you won’t regret it. Gruesome, freaky but really fucking awesome.
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