The Catacombs represent the relation between Paris’s history and the Earth’s geological evolution. Forty-five million years ago, the surrounding area of Paris was engulfed by a tropical sea and a bed of sediment had accumulated on the sea floor, creating the limestone deposits over time that are still visible in the Catacombs today. This period of the world was given the name Lutetian period, the Gallo-Roman name for Paris.
Beneath the city of Paris, an expanse system of tunnels runs directly below the main streets. The Paris Catacombs are estimated to be about three hundred kilometers long of tunnels and passages; Most of which have been bricked sealed to stop the pursuit of illegal exploration. The Catacombs were previously a limestone mine which contributed to the city’s growth and expansion. At around the second half of the 18th century, the vast quarry turned into a burial ground. It holds the remains of about six million former inhabitants who have been removed from their original burial grounds because of overpopulated cemeteries.
In 1763 an edict was made by Louis XV to remove all burials from the capital. However, the church refused, so nothing was ever really done until a heavy rain that caused the walls to break of the famous burial ground, Les Innocents, in the Spring of 1870. The flood had created a runoff from the cemetery that carried decomposing flesh spilling in someone’s lawn. French authorities soon took action after the multitude of complaints. After the French Revolution, the burial practices for the newly dead began in the catacombs.