‘Empire of the dead’: Paris’ Catacombs still entice visitors

A place of fear, legend, inspiration and exploration, Paris's skull and bone-lined Catacombs still draw thousands of visitors each year, many of whom queue for hours to explore the ghoulish burial site. "Stop! This is the empire of the dead", reads a sign greeting visitors at the entrance to the two-kilometre (1.2-mile) long tunnels filled with the bones of approximately six million Parisians -- although that figure is still debated. The transfer of human remains from Parisian cemeteries to the tunnels began towards the end of the 18th century when authorities realised that the decomposition of bodies in the city's cemeteries was not particularly good for public health. "It was said that the wine was turning bad and the milk was curdling," said Sylvie Robin, the site's curator. So the city decided to move the skeletal remains to abandoned underground quarries. And never short of a money-

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