If you’ve ever been captivated by the prospect of venturing into the bowels of Paris, embarking on a journey shrouded in history, intrigue, and a touch of macabre, then the Paris Catacombs might be a must-visit on your itinerary.
This vast network of tunnels and ossuaries, housing the remains of more than six million people, is a world apart from the city’s gleaming lights and romantic allure.
But an important question often arises, “Is it legal to go into the Paris Catacombs?”
Summary Bullet Points:
- The legal entrance to the Paris Catacombs is accessible and open to the public, requiring the purchase of an admission ticket.
- Going beyond the designated tourist path is strictly prohibited and considered illegal.
- Catacomb exploration, known as “cataphilia,” is a popular activity, but it’s risky and punishable by law.
- Despite the risks, some daredevils continue to venture into the forbidden sections, known as “les catacombes sauvages.”
Delving Into The Underworld: The Legal Entry To The Catacombs
The Paris Catacombs, also known as “The Empire of Death,” have an official entrance located on Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy.
Open to the public, this entrance allows you to step into a segment of the catacombs, home to an astonishing arrangement of skulls and bones from Paris’ overflowing cemeteries in the 18th century.
Buying an admission ticket, you are free to traverse this historical monument, guided by informational plaques that illuminate the catacombs’ intriguing history.
Despite the somewhat morbid surroundings, the legally accessible parts of the catacombs draw in countless visitors each year.
Winding through the dimly lit tunnels, tourists are offered a unique perspective on Paris’ history – a view far removed from the typical images of the Eiffel Tower or Champs-Élysées.
Crossing The Line: What Lies Beyond The Designated Path
While the public section of the catacombs provides a fascinating journey, it represents only a minuscule part of the vast network of subterranean tunnels that weave beneath the city’s streets.
The rest of the catacombs, outside the tourist route, is strictly off-limits. These areas, often referred to as “les catacombes sauvages,” are prohibited due to several reasons, including safety concerns and the preservation of historical sites and bones.
The Paris Catacombs consist of over 200 miles of underground tunnels, many of which are unmapped and unstable. Venturing into these unknown regions carries significant risk, including the potential for getting lost or even buried in a tunnel collapse.
Moreover, the preservation of the catacombs is a concern for the city officials. Unauthorized visits may lead to damage to this historical site, making it imperative to restrict access to trained professionals or authorized personnel.
An Illegal Adventure: The Lure Of Cataphilia
Despite the restrictions and associated risks, a subculture known as “cataphiles” has emerged over the years.
These individuals, fascinated by the mystery of the catacombs, take upon themselves to explore the forbidden sections of the catacombs, often under the cover of darkness.
The thrill of venturing into the unknown, coupled with the rich history embedded in the catacombs’ walls, fuels these illegal explorations.
Nevertheless, this daring hobby comes with considerable risks, not least of which is the possibility of legal repercussions.
Unauthorized entrance into the catacombs can lead to hefty fines, up to 60 euros, as it is considered trespassing on a historical monument.
Furthermore, these escapades might result in more severe consequences in case of damage to the site or the remains housed within. These potential outcomes act as deterrents for many, ensuring that the majority of visitors choose the legal and safer option of the official catacomb tour.
Paris Police: The Guardians Of The Catacombs
The city authorities take the matter of catacomb security very seriously. There is a special division of the Paris Police Prefecture known as the “Cataflics” (a portmanteau of Catacombes and Flics, the latter being French slang for cops), whose responsibility is to patrol the catacombs.
Their duty is to deter and catch illegal entrants, ensuring the preservation of this historical monument and the safety of potential trespassers.
Despite the grim conditions, Cataflics regularly delve into the intricate labyrinth, guided by years of experience and a thorough understanding of the layout.
They use several strategies to deter and catch trespassers, including sudden checks at known entry points and patrol routes that intercept popular paths.
Over the years, the Cataflics have thwarted many unsanctioned excursions, ensuring that the catacombs continue to be a well-preserved slice of Paris’s unique history.
A Word Of Caution: The Realities Of Illegal Entries
While tales of secret catacomb parties and exclusive underground art exhibits might tempt some to consider illegal exploration, it’s important to remember that these stories often downplay the real dangers.
Over the years, there have been numerous cases of cataphiles getting lost or trapped in the catacombs. In 2017, two teenagers spent three days lost in the catacombs before being located by rescue dogs.
The catacombs maintain a constant temperature of 15 degrees Celsius, and without light or food, their situation quickly turned perilous.
Additionally, some sections of the catacombs are flooded or filled with toxic gases, posing significant health risks to trespassers.
The danger is very real, as is the risk of legal repercussions. The thrill of the unknown and the allure of a forbidden adventure can often blind individuals to these risks.
The Verdict On Catacomb Legality
So, is it legal to go into the Paris Catacombs? The answer is yes, provided you stick to the designated visitor’s path accessed via the official entry point.
Entering the catacombs illegally, however, is a violation of the law and can result in fines and other legal repercussions, not to mention the potential dangers to personal safety.
Paris is a city of romance, culture, and history. The Catacombs are an undeniable part of this history, providing a unique and eerie perspective on the city’s past.
However, like all historical monuments, they should be treated with respect, preserving them for future generations to explore and learn from, legally and safely.