On this date two years ago, I was running through the Paris Catacombs – running because they were about to close and it would not have been an opportune place to be locked in for the night.
If you’re curious about the Paris Catacombs and if reading Atlas Obscura won’t make you too nostalgic for travel, here’s some info:
The popular site houses the skeletal remains of some six to seven million former Parisians. Not all areas of the Catacombs are open to the public. Back in the late 18th century, cemeteries were becoming over-populated. Cemeteries such as Les Innocents were so stuffed with the dead that it led to improper burials, open graves, and unearthed corpses. Neighbors began getting sick with infectious diseases due to the unhealthy conditions of the cemetery.
Les Innocents was not the only cemetery that was condemned. Many other graveyards were becoming overpopulated, causing problems for the inhabitants of Paris. With tons of empty quarries, police and priests alike discreetly moved the bones to the renovated section of the tunnel over the period between 1787 and 1814. […]
The Catacombs became a popular attraction for royal families and the people of importance and in 1867, the area was opened to the general public.
There are many things I could say about tourism that involves meandering through underground tunnels of skulls and bones. Perhaps I will explore this in future posts. For now, I am mainly remembering that, all throughout the underground passages, there are quotations about death in French and Latin.
One of the quotations, from Ecclesiastes 12:1 says, “And remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of evil come, and years arrive, about which you will say, ‘I have no desire in them.'”
What is it, really, to remember our Creator in the days of our youth?
Why is it important to remember our Creator before “the days of old age and feebleness”?
What sort of preparation is constituted by this?
What kinds of activities contribute to this remembrance?
I think running through the Paris Catacombs in my youth was one way to live the questions or, at the very least, to raise them.