October 22, 2009

The Catacombs.

As we are approaching one of the most mystical celebrations of the year, Halloween, I decided to dedicate at least one post to the sentiment of the supernatural and esoteric.

I have always been interested in the catacombs. The idea, that there are tunnels, man-made passageways and hallways carved underneath entire cities evokes a sense of utter fear and fascination in me. Often these are also connected to underground cemeteries, creating a subterranean necropolis.

The first burial galleries to be referred to as catacombs lie beneath "San Sebastiano fuori le mura", in Rome. No one knows today with certainty, if the word itself described the cemetery or the location. There is no doubt however that the San Sebastiano catacombs are the first to be referred to as such. Today, the term signifies networks of caves, grottos, or subterranean galleries that were used in medieval times as refuges during wars, as worship places and for burial of the dead.

Besides the Italian catacombs, the most famous ones lie beneath the city of Paris; the Catacombs of Paris or Catacombes de Paris. Created over a large period of time, these underground galleries were originally quarries, where building material was extracted. This eventually led to hollowing out a city below and creation of the catacombs as they are known today.
Part of the subterranean tunnels also form a very large underground ossuary. This is most probably why the Paris catacombs are classed as one of the most haunted places in the world. The history of this macabre place goes back to the late eighteenth century, when the city's cemeteries were running out of space. It was therefore decided to create three new large-scale suburban cemeteries and to condemn all existing within the city limits; the remains of these would be moved discreetly to a renovated section of Paris's abandoned quarries.

The network of tunnels located beneath Paris is approximately 300 kilometers long and frequently follows the streets and passages above, even carries the same names. Those who have visited the tunnels and even some security guards have reported hearing strange voices. There have been hundreds of reports of people feeling presence of something or someone when moving around in the tunnels, even the feeling a touch of someone, or something. There is also a tale of a young man who explored the tunnels alone, leaving behind his video camera and a tape of him running from something. It is said that he has never been found...


Helen McGinn said...

How incredible. Underground tunnels have always fascinated me; I spent an afternoon in the Chislehurst Caves in Essex once, used by every generation in history from the pagans as a sacrificial site to a shelter during WW1 and WW2.

Catacombs take it to a whole new level though. Under Edinburgh, there is said to be an entire street that was closed off during the plague and the doors have never been opened......

MsTypo said...

"Most haunted places in the world." Walls made out of bones. I'm not sure if i want to visit 'cause it sounds cool or run away lest i get nightmares. LOL

Sumandebray said...

very scary indeed ... I would raather stay out of such missions!
very informative and well narrated

Nessa said...

I think catacombs are pretty cool. I liked going in the ones under St. Stephan's in Vienna.

My NaNo story fr 2008 has an ossuary from Hallstat, Austria (which reminds me I need to post that before 2009's begins.)

Thursday Thirteen - Useless Knowledge

Brian Miller said...

fascinating...i have always been intrigued by caves and exploration...catacombs would be right up the alley.

Hilary said...

Oh I'd love to visit catacombs.. though I'm not sure this is the one I'd start with. That looks pretty unsettling. You and I were on a similar wavelength today.. both referring to graves.

Betsy Brock said...

300 miles of catacombs? You could get lost in there if you turned off the black line! I can't believe there are 7 million skeletons piled up in there, either! Talk about haunted! Yikes!

Cat in the road said...

I visited my first catacomb in Italy about 11 years ago. It was amazing. Death & sex are said to be two of the most fascinating aspects of life. Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. It allows me to release the inner child and create macabre scenes on my front lawn. I like how you ended this posting on a spooky note. Nice touch :~()

Donna said...

A little bit creepy but very interesting and quite amazing.

Keith said...

I love this post. This has got to be one of my favorites yet. I love the catacombs. I find them a fascinating subject. I've watched quite a few specials on them. The Paris ones seem to definitely to be a highpoint. It's just so awesome that there are like these entire cities of the dead, etc. underneath cities around the world.

Reading Tea Leaves said...

A fascinating read as always. I have always wanted to visit the catacombs in Rome or Paris, for purely historical reasons I must add!! There is an interesting exhibition at the British Museum on the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico, which I believe is celebrated on 31st October too - but they celebrate death rather than fear it. An interesting thought.

Jeanne x

Anil P said...

This is surreal to say the least. 300 kilometres long must indeed qualify for a netherworld, at once mysterious and scary to say the least.

Anonymous said...

Halloween... supernatural... superstitions... everything is so interesting. JUST MAYBE I'm too into it. Lovely post. thanks for sharing!

Claus said...

There's a show on the History Channel called "Ciudades ocultas" Hidden Cities, where I actually saw a documentary on Paris' Catacombs! I find it fascinating, as I love history, and the hidden aspects of what one usually learns in school. I have always thought there is a whole lot more than what we barely know. BUT...I don't think I could "visit" a place like the catacombs. Not for the supernatural, but for claustrophobic reasons! I know I wouldn't feel comfortable, and therefore, I wouldn't enjoy the visit. Maybe just a pick from the entrance? :-))

Stacey J. Warner said...

I love the mystery of the catacombs...they lead my imagination in so many directions...now I want to go to Paris.

Much love

will said...

I've always had more fear of the living, the dead are simply dead & can't do anything.

julochka said...

although not a catacomb, i love the basilica cistern underneath istanbul for the same reason...it's this magical, mystical place beneath the pulsing, vibrant streets of the city. tho' i didn't have time to go there last week, i thank you for reminding me of it. even just thinking of that place is wonderful. and a little bit deliciously spooky.

Shelly's Style Shop said...

Wow! What an interesting post. Just in time for Halloween. ;-) Thanks for sharing such wonderful stories all the time. I really really enjoy your post. ;-)

xoxo, Shelly

sprinkles said...

Interesting post and video.

I once met a woman who said that there were underground tunnels in my town. Unfortunately we didn't talk much about it but I've thought of that conversation often. Sadly, the woman has passed away so I can't ask her more about it. I've mentioned it to others but they don't seem to know what I'm talking about. So I don't know if it's true or not. Wish I wouldn't gotten more information from her.

valerie said...

this is so interesting! I was so excited to see the catacombs in Paris, but when I finally got there way too scared to go in!! : ) great post

Mahmud Yussop said...

Never knew that Paris has these tunnels for hundreds of miles long.Eeerie and there are just below our feet.Thanks for sharing.

Keera Ann Fox said...

My first visit to catacombs were on Malta. We wandered down into the narrow passage, past grinning skeletons (one had a baby skeleton with it). It wasn't creepy at all, but felt like we were visiting someone's family.

The catacombs in Rome were sterile in comparison, made inoffensive for the tourists I guess.

United Studies said...

How very interesting! I am fascinated by things like this and even wrote about it earlier this year. I had read about the Catacombe dei Cappuccini in Palermo in a National Geographic magazine and immediately had to read more about it online.


My great-grandparents on my dad's side immigrated to the US from Palermo in the early 1900's, and so it makes me wonder if some of my ancestors are down there.

Zuzana said...

what a great story; there is something inevitably uncomfortable about these underground tunnels. And the fact that most of them hold a certain aura of mystique is easy to understand.;) Always happy when you visit.;)

my sentiments exactly; I both find this as intriguing, wanting to explore more, as I want to run away.;) Did you know there is an ossuary close to Prague too? Thanks for your visits, I appreciate them always;) xo

so glad you enjoy this post and my writing; always happy when you stop by.;)

I will make sure to visit your blog and read that story later today. It sounds very intriguing though.;) Your visits are so appreciated.;) xo

I am like that too; anything mysterious and supernatural holds my interest.;)

I agree; furthermore I am not sure if I could fight my claustrophobia. I have visited pre-historic caves with ancient drawings though and that went well. Your post about your friend was very touching.
Always happy when you visit my dear friend.;) xo

yes, it has all the makings of a horror story. I believe there was a movie made about the catacombs of Paris actually.;) xo

Italian catacombs must be very spectacular. You are correct; we are fascinated with that which drives our life force and that which is unknown. And I agree on the Halloween, this is by far the most brilliantly entertaining celebration of the year.;) Always happy when you visit.;)

I so agree.;) Thank you for stopping by.;) xo

so glad you enjoyed this post.;) Thank you for your kind comment and so happy that you share my interest for this unusual and mystical creations.;)

I totally agree with you, that the historic aspect of the catacombs is very interesting. In my culture, we too celebrate the 31st of October as the day of the death, or the day of the souls. It is a more solemn celebration and is linked to remembering the family members that has passed on, by visiting their graves and lighting candles.;)
Thank you for your always wonderful comments.;) xoxo

yes, I agree, it is a very fascinating prospect. Thank you so much for stopping by, please come back again.;)

very happy you enjoyed this my dear friend.;) Always happy when you visit.;)

I share the same fear. I am very uncomfortable in close spaces and can not imagine walking in tunnels, but only if there is a crowd. I guess it has something to do with the feeling of not being able to get out because of people in the way.;) But yes, catacombs are truly fascinating.;)
Always so happy when you visit.;) xo

I agree.;) On my next visit to Paris, I am definitely seeing the darker side of it.;) xoxo

so logical and so true.;)) It is the living we should truly fear, thank you so much for stopping by.;)

I am glad I brought back something in your memory that you like to revisit. And "deliciously spooky" is such a correct term.;)) xoxo

glad you liked this, I am always so happy when you stop by. Thank you for this great comment.;) xo

perhaps you will get a chance to meet someone else who knows a bit more about the underground tunnels. Have you tried to search the net? Thank you for your always kind words.;) xo

I think I can understand that feeling.;) Perhaps on your next visit then.;))

yes, I agree; eerie is the right would to use.;) Always so happy when you stop by my friend.;)

I have never visited any catacombs, but I think I know what you mean. It is often more interesting to go and see something that is not frequented by too many tourists. Always happy when you stop by.;)xo

what an intriguing story! I will make sure to read that post of yours. And how fascinating that you have Italian roots, it shows in your looks.
Always happy when you visit.;) xo