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Database: Les Catacombes

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The Left Bank of Paris is built on rich limestone deposits, the stone from which built much of the city. Initially the stone was mined well out from the city proper, but as Paris expanded, it gradually covered even the mined-out areas. Since medieval mining involved digging a well down to the stone deposits and then tunneling horizontally until the vein was depleted, the result was a vast, intricate maze of tunnels beneath the streets. A series of building collapses beginning in 1774 proved that the tunnels could no longer be ignored, and in 1782, police lieutenant Thiroux de Crosne decided to act.*
* By which they mean he decided to do something about the situation. Not that he decided to put on a small play.
Thiroux had the quarries within an area of 240 hectares surveyed and registered. He saw the old mine shafts as an opportunity to solve another pressing problem: what to do with the bones of hundreds of thousands of dead people from the Innocents' Cemetery, which were so densely packed that they literally spilled out into the basements of adjoining buildings.**
** Sleep well tonight.
Thanks to Thiroux, 6 million deceased were crammed into the quarries, sometimes 30 meters thick. Among the mortal remains are those of Thiroux himself, along with 1,800 victims of the September Massacres of 1792. Later architects transformed the caverns into a proper mausoleum, complete with the following epigraph by poet Jacques Delille: "Stop! Here lies the empire of death." Bones and skulls were arranged in intricate patterns, and special chambers were set up, museum-like, to display samples of the various types of stone found beneath Paris and the innumerable skeletal deformities to be found among the catacombs' inhabitants. These unusual aesthetics have made the catacombs a popular tourist destination since the early 1800s.
*** Yeah. For sickos.

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