Catacombs arose in allusion to the Catacombs of Rome, a name originally given to an ancient cemetery located not far from the Appian Way. The Cemetery of the Innocents (near Saint-Eustache, in the Les Halles area) had been in use for almost ten centuries and had become a source of infection for the locals. After numerous complaints, the Council of State decided, on November 9, 1785, to prohibit the further use of the Cemetery of the Innocents and to eliminate its contents.

Disused quarries were chosen to receive the remains; the city of Paris had just completed a general inspection of the quarries to strengthen the public roads undermined by them. Construction work was carried out in the “Tombe-Issoire” quarry, using large quantities of stone, strengthening the galleries and completing by excavating a staircase, flanked by a pit into which the bones could be thrown.

The transfer of the remains could begin after the blessing and consecration of the site on April 7, 1786, and continued until 1788, always at dusk and after a ceremony in which a procession of priests in surplices sang the service of the dead. along the route by carts loaded with bones, which were covered by a black veil. Then, until 1814, the site received the remains of all the cemeteries of Paris.

There were other reasons that led to the choice of underground excavations. In Christians, the sense of community was experienced with great force: they also wanted to be together in the “sleep of death”.

According to Roman law, the burial of the deceased within the city walls was prohibited, all the catacombs were located along the great consular roads and, in general, in the suburbs of the time.

The Paris Catacombs reopened on June 14, 2005, after several months of closure for construction. Lighting has been adjusted, vaults have been reinforced, and bone walls have been repositioned.