Fancy going to the empire of death on your next holiday? | Lindsey Fitzharris

‘ Photograph: Paul Koudounaris

Modern society is ever more distant from the old rituals surrounding death and mourning – so it’s no wonder that ‘dark tourism’ to catacombs and cemeteries is flourishing.

As I descend into the Parisian catacombs, my companion, Max, lets out a groan behind me. He has followed me warily down into the tunnels that form a honeycomb under the bustling streets of Paris’s 14th arrondissement, after I promised him that we would follow up the experience with a stiff drink. We pass under the entrance to the ossuary – with its somewhat unsettling inscription “Arrête! C’est ici l’empire de la mort” (Stop! This is the empire of death) – and are instantly confronted by the bones of six million people.

Paris’s population nearly doubled in the 17th and 18th centuries. As it did so, disposing of the dead became increasingly problematic. Burial grounds were bursting at the seams with human remains, presenting huge threats to public health. In cemeteries dotted around the city, it was…

Source: Fancy going to the empire of death on your next holiday? | Lindsey Fitzharris

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