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Inside the Catacombs

Most of my friends said that I needed to visit the Catacombs during my study abroad. They considered it one of the most important sites in Paris. When I travelled to Italy in high school, I saw a display created by monks where they turned human bones into artwork. The Catacombs reminded me of that exhibit, but on a larger, more harrowing scale. After climbing down numerous stairs, I was struck by how large the walls of bones were. It felt both impressive and disturbing and I thought of the countless people who made up the ossuary. The low ceilings added a sense of claustrophobia to this memorial and made me all the more aware that I was surrounded by the remains of those that were long-gone.

Some of the bones were organized into shapes, like a heart. The heart of skulls reminded me that the morbid could be made beautiful. However, I could not help but question if the people whose skulls made this shape would appreciate the symbolism. Would they be aghast that their remains were used in this way? It raised an important question about whether a beautiful display is worth potentially going against the wishes of the people whose remains were used. It could also be argued that the Catacombs did these people a favor. They transcended their individual bodies and became something much bigger and more long-lasting in death. I may be unsure of how I ultimately feel about this unique burial ground, but it left an impression.


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