Poem: The Catacombs

Le passage dit des doubles carrières dans les Catacombes de Paris by Jean-David & Anne-Laure (13/07/08)
Le passage dit des doubles carrières dans les Catacombes de Paris by Jean-David & Anne-Laure (13/07/08)

Originating 45 million years ago
Below the earth’s surface
Lies “Lutetian” limestone.

Imagine Parisians in the 13th Century
Using chisels and axes to extract Lutetian limestone
And building “Lutèce”, Old Paris.

Creating a chain of tunnels
With secret passages that emerge aboveground
Forming Paris’s underground
Lutèce”, Old Paris
Aboveground, still proudly standing
Notre-Dame and the Louvre.

1786 Cemetery of the Innocents
Bones transferred to Paris’s Underground
A solution to overcrowded cemeteries
Home to eight million bones
Where there are no identities and tombstones
Stacked on top of the other
The remains of aristocrats and the poor
In what’s called the Catacombs.

Catacombes de Paris -15 February 2009 by Deror avi
Catacombes de Paris -15 February 2009 by Deror avi

The living has layered their bones
Skulls, tibias and femurs
Forming walls, altars and mounds
Attracting the living to see
A vision of death
Where sooner or later,
Dead you will be
Going to heaven, maybe?

Napoleon III, Mozart and Victor Hugo
And many others
All walked through the Catacombs
Some to analyze bones
Some to pay respect
Some to hide from the living
And some to play among the dead.

After you experience the Catacomb’s damp smell and silence
Visit the sick and homeless
For they shall welcome you
And know that there is a sweet pleasure in giving before dying
For this is God’s way of living.

by Tessa Matus