Paris Catacombs (S5.04)

Audio: Paris Catacombs

In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be talking about Paris, or rather, what lies underneath it — The Paris Catacombs. What began as a network of mines beneath the city which spanned approximately 200 miles or 322 km soon morphed into something much more. A crisis in the 18th Century quite literally shook the foundations of the city, prompting the creation of an ossuary or network of catacombs beneath the city, which would go on to become home to generations of Parisien dead. Throughout the centuries, these catacombs have become a city beneath the city, and have been host to a number of wild and wonderful tales, including revolutions, occupations, secret cinemas and even heists. At this point, I’d normally tell you the population of the place we’re discussing, but we can only approximate for this one, and it’s possibly a record for this podcast — around six million, all of them (as far as we know) dead. 


Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Dublin, Ireland, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Galway, Ireland. Our theme music and other stings come from Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella. We also feature music in this episode from friend of the show Will Woods. 


Cimetière des Saints-Innocents in around 1550 (via Wikipedia)

  • Plenty of additional media, articles and other info is available on the official website of the Catacombs.
  • Also check out Erin-Marie Legacey’s invaluable book ‘Making Space for the Dead’ here.
  • There’s plenty more that we didn’t discuss on the Cemetary of the Holy Innocents, which can be found here.
  • The Independent has an extensive piece on The Stones of Paris, aka Lutetian Limestone.
  • Wikipedia has an extensive article on the Danse Macabre, used and discussed in this episode.
  • More on Mushrooms? Gastro Obscura has you covered.
  • For more on the use of the Catacombs during the resistance, see Nigel Perrin’s full blog post here.
  • The Guardian has a full article on the 2017 wine theft we discussed.
  • This old tourist brochure from has some really great photos and maps.
  • A brilliant article in The New Yorker entitled “The Invisible City Beneath Paris” is available here.
  • William Fetridge’s “The Rise and Fall of the Paris Commune”, quoted in this episode, can be found in full here.
  • The BBC also has a full podcast episode of their own dedicated to the Catacombs.

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