Saturday, June 4, 2011

An Underground City of Bones

Today I made a long-awaited visit to the catacombs of Paris. The suspense mounted as I descended an eternal expanse of spiral staircase down into a dark and damp maze of artfully stacked bones. This chilling underground site is a resting place for about 6 million departed Parisians - a place that makes one painfully aware of one's own mortality. Indeed, we will be counted among these bones sooner than we'd like to imagine!

All of these remains were transposed to this underground stone quarry in the late 1700's - They were removed from mass graves in the city because of sanitation issues. Altars were erected in the catacombs so that Mass could be carried out and the new burial site could be consecrated by the priests of Paris. I love to imagine the priests chanting in Latin by lamplight as wagonloads of bones were unloaded and laid to rest.

At the exit, just before the first glimpse of daylight, this inscription is etched on a big stone for all to see: (translation from the French)

"Listen dry bones
Listen to the voice of the Lord
Almighty God of our ancestors
Who with a breath created all beings
Will join your separated limbs
You will resume new bodies
The skin will form on them!
Dry bones, you will live again."
- LeFranc de Pompignan

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Paris, France

1 comment:

  1. Definitely a 'Truth stranger that Fiction" moment.
    Very sobering.