How the Paris Catacombs Solved a Cemetery Crisis


Paris catacombs / Wikimedia Commons

One of the most popular tourist destinations in Paris—the Catacombs—was started as a solution to the intrusion of death upon daily life.


By Allison C. Meier


Recently the Guardian reported on a British health expert’s proposal to bury bodies alongside roads. The idea of lining thoroughfares with corpses may seem macabre, but it could promote the planting of new woodlands through green burial and help address the nation’s scarcity of cemetery space.

This is not the first time the living have had to tackle the problem of a growing population of the dead; a similar crisis sparked the rural cemetery movement of the nineteenth century.

Urban cemeteries in Paris were unpleasant places in the eighteenth century, particularly the Cemetery of the Innocents. For centuries, departed Parisians had been buried there in Les Halles, a busy, central neighborhood with an active market.

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