The Paris Catacombs: an exceptional site with universal value
The 2018-2019 period is pivotal for:
Improving visitor reception at the site
The Paris Catacombs have been attached to the Carnavalet Museum – History of Paris since 2002.
This exceptional site is comprised of:
- limestone quarries that supplied the capital with building stone from medieval times to the modern era;
- and an ossuary, which was made into a landscaped circuit in 1810.
In 2017, Yoonseux Architects marked the first milestone in the evolution of reception at the site with new facilities at the exit on Avenue René-Coty that include a bookstore-boutique and restrooms.
A new reception area will be created in 2018-2019, with access to the underground circuit from the ground floor of a magnificent toll house from the former Barrière d’Enfer (Gate of Hell) that was built by architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux in 1787 and fully restored by Christophe Batard, Head Architect for historical monuments.
The scenographic layout designed by Marianne Klapisch will add a few key elements for preparing a visit to the site, with a central vestibule where projections of works or documentaries will be shown.
« un magnifique pavillon de l’ancienne barrière d’Enfer construit par l’architecte Claude-Nicolas Ledoux en 1787, entièrement restauré par l’architecte en chef des monuments historiques »
Supporting the development of a broader audience
The lengthening of opening hours at the site resulted in a total of 537,935 visitors in 2017, which represented a 52% increase. Also in 2017, a breakdown of visitors indicated a high percentage of North Americans (41%), Australians (6%) and Europeans (42%).
More than 79 groups (representing 1,338 individuals) of volunteer workers, association leaders, social workers and socially sponsored groups were welcomed. The great majority of these groups were accompanied by cultural outreach representatives from the Carnavalet Museum.
« 537 935 visitors in 2017 »
Reinforcing an ambitious research policy through partnerships
The material and visual integrity of the site, which is fragile and vulnerable to climatic conditions and large numbers of tourists, requires constant mobilization.
Preventive conservation (disassembling, sorting, pathological study, interpretation and reassembly of the bone walls), improved lighting and replacement of the covering of the circuit floor are ongoing actions.
In addition, collaboration and partnerships with several laboratories and scientific laboratories have been reinforced. In late 2017 during consolidation work, bones that had been added during the pre-revolutionary period (1787-1788) were found and are being studied in greater depth. In 2018-2019, archeo-anthropological analyses will also be developed.
Results will be more broadly disseminated through study days and conferences, films and reports.
These collective efforts in research and cultural outreach share a commitment to conserving this site, which is unique in the world, getting to know it better and promoting it to all types of audiences.
General Heritage Curator
Director of the Carnavalet Museum – History of Paris, the Paris Catacombs and the Archeological Crypt on Ile de la Cité.