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Augustus inclosed it in 1186 with high walls, because it had been made a place of the grossest debauchery, and the gates were closed at night. About forty years afterwards the Bishop of Paris, Pierre de Nemours, enlarged it, and from that time no further enlargement of its precincts was ever made. The manner in which the dead were heaped there is noticed thus oddly by the old poet Jean Le Fevre, who lived in the reign of Charles V:
Car Atropos la male gloute
Au jour qu'ils ressusciteront. In 1440 the Bishop of Paris, Denis des Moulins, raised the burial fees, at which the people murmured, and resented the imposition, as they deemed it, so strongly, that they entered into a combination, and during four months no person was buried there, and no funeral service performed over those who died, a revenge for which the bishop excommunicated them all. This quarrel did not continue long, and as generations after generations were piled one upon another within the same ground, the inhabitants of the neighbouring parishes began to complain of the great inconvenience and danger to which they were exposed; diseases were imputed to such a mass of collected putridity, tainting the air by exhalations, and the waters by filtration, and measures for clearing out the cemetery would have been taken in the middle of the sixteenth century, if some disputes between the bishop and the parliament had not prevented them. To save the credit of the burial-ground a marvellous power of consuming bodies in the short space of nine days was imputed to it, as Hentzner tells us when he describes the place as sepulchrorum numero et scelestis admirandum.
The mode of interment was of the most indecent kind, not in single graves but in common pits. 'I am astonished,' says Philip Thicknesse writing from Paris,' that where such an infinite number of people live in so small a compass, they should suffer the dead to be buried in the manner they do, or within the city. There are several burial pits in Paris, of a prodigious size and depth, in which the dead bodies are laid side by side, without any earth being put over them till the ground tier is full; then, and not till then, a small layer of earth covers them, and another layer of dead comes on, till, by layer upon layer, and dead upon dead, the hole is filled with a mass of human corruption, enough to breed a plague. These places are inclosed, it is true, within high walls; but, nevertheless, the air cannot be improved by it. The burials in churches too
often prove fatal to the priests and people who attend ; but every body and every thing in Paris is so much alive that not a soul thinks about the dead.' Mr. Thicknesse was mistaken in one point,
- there was no intermediate earth between the layers of the coffins : they were closely packed, one tier above another, in pits thirty feet deep and twenty square, and when the pit was full it was covered with a layer of soil, not more than a foot in thickness. These fosses communes were emptied once in thirty or forty years, and the bones deposited in what was called Le Grand Charnier des Innocens, an arched gallery which surrounded the burial-place, having been erected at different times, as a work of piety, by different citizens, whose names, and sometimes their escutcheons, were placed
, upon the parts which they had founded.
which they had founded. One of these pits, which was intended to contain two thousand bodies, having been opened in 1779, the inhabitants of the adjoining streets presented a memorial to the Lieutenant-General of the Police; they stated that the soil of the burial-ground was raised more than eight feet above the level of the streets and the ground-foor of the adjacent houses, and represented that serious consequences had been experienced in the cellars of some of the houses. The evil indeed was now become so great that it could not longer be borne. The last gravedigger, François Pontraci, had, by his own register, in less than thirty years, deposited more than 90,000 bodies in that cemetery: for many years the average number of interments there had been not less than 3000, and of these from 150 to 200 at the utmost were all that had separate graves: the rest were laid in the common trenches, which were usually made to hold from 12 to 1500! It was calculated that since the time of Philippe Auguste 1,200,000 bodies had been interred there, and it had been in use as a ceme tery many ages before his time. A memorial upon the ill effects which had arisen, and the worse
, consequences which might be expected to arise from the constant accumulation of putrescence was read before the Royal Academy of Science, in 1783, by M. Cadet de Vaux, who held the useful office of Inspecteur Général des Objets de Salubrité. The Council of State in 1785 decreed that the cemetery should be cleared of its dead, and converted into a market-place, after the canonical forms which were requisite in such cases should have been observed: the archbishop, in conformity, issued a decree for the suppression, demolition and evacuation of the cemetery, directing that the bones and bodies should be removed to the new subterranean cemetery of the Plaine de Mont Rouge, and appointing one of his vicars-general to draw up the procès-verbal of the exhumation, removal, and reinterment; and the Royal Society of Medicine appointed a committee to explain the plans which should
VOL. XXI. NO, XLII.
be presented for this extraordinary operation, and superintended a work as interesting to men of science as it would have been shocking to common spectators. It is well known that the substance which is denominated Adipocire was then scientifically re-discovered:-re-discovered, we say, because the existence of the substance had been known by Sir Thomas Brown, and a mode of preparing it by Lord Bacon; and scientifically, because the fact had long been familiar to the grave-diggers in Paris, and also among the lower classes in this country. We ourselves well remember the prejudice which existed among them against using spermaceti in medicine, before the discovery was made at Paris, because they said it was dead men's fat. At Paris it was believed that the transmutation took place only in the comnion pit where the dead were buried in masses; but it is evident that it occurs also in single graves; it is however very possible that the process may be contagious. And it cannot be doubted but that worse consequences than were actually experienced from the horrible accumulation of corpses in the cemetery of St. Innocent must have resulted if the bodies had not undergone this change.
The common people of Paris regarded this burial-place with so much veneration that some danger was apprehended, if any accident should provoke their irritable feelings during an exposure which no precaution could prevent from being shocking to humanity. Every possible precaution however was taken. The work went on by night and day without intermission, till it was necessarily suspended during the hot months; and it was resumed with the same steady exertion as soon as the season permitted. Religious ceremonies had not at that time lost their effect upon the Parisian mob: and the pomp with which some of the remains were removed, and the decent and religious care with which the bones and undistinguished remains were conveyed away, reconciled them to the measure. The night-scenes, when the work was carried on by the light of torches and bonfires, are said to have been of the most impressive character,--crosses, monuments, demolished edifices, excavations, and coffins, -and the labourers moving about like spectres in the lurid light, under a cloud of smoke. M. Robert, and other distinguished artists of that day, painted some of these scenes,
,—in French phrase, avec la plus grande expression et l'harmonie la plus sentimentale.
It fortunately happened that there was no difficulty in finding a proper receptacle for the remains thus disinterred. shock is wanting,' says Prudhomme, to throw down all the stones of Paris into the place from whence they were quarried. The towers and domes and steeples are so many signs which tell the beholder that whatever he sees above his head has been taken from
nder his feet.' The quarries had been worked from time immenorial without any system, every man working where he would and s he would, till it became dangerous to work them farther; and it ras only known as a popular tradition that they extended under reat part of the city, till the year 1774, when some alarming acidents roused the attention of the government. They were then vroperly surveyed, and plans of them taken, and the result was the rightful discovery that the churches, palaces, and most of the outhern parts of Paris were undermined, and in imminent danger of sinking into the pit below them. Could they have foreseen at hat time in what manner the fabric of the government and of civil society was undermined also, how insignificant would the danger bave appeared to that of the moral subversion which was at hand! A special commission was appointed to direct such works as might be required. The necessity of the undertaking was frightfully shown the very day that the commission was installed,—a house in the Rue d'Enfer having that day sunk down eight and twenty metres below the level of its court-yard! Engineers were now employed to examine the whole of the quarries, and prop the streets, roads, churches, palaces and buildings of all kinds, which were in danger of being engulphed! One set of workmen were employed in this curious service, another in exploring the labyrinth of excavations, some of which were under the others, and opening galleries between them, that the extent of the peril might be known; and to prevent future evils of the same kind, all the quarries which were still in use in the environs of Paris were placed under the inspection of the commissioners, that they might be worked upon : some safe system. Never had any men a more arduous or more important commission! The pillars which had been left by the quarriers in their blind operations, without any regularity, were in many places too weak for the enormous weight above, and in most
places had themselves been undermined, or perhaps originally stood • upon ground which had previously been hollowed. In some in
stances they had given way, in others the roof had dipt and threatbi ened to fall; in others great masses had fallen in. The great aqueduct of Arcueil passed over this treacherous ground; it had already suffered some shocks, and if the quarries had continued to be neglected, an accident must sooner or later have happened to this water-course, which would have cut off the supply from the fountains of Paris, and have filled the excavations with water.
Such was the state of the quarries when the commission was appointed in 1777, under M. Charles Axel Guillaumot as inspector general. The thought of converting them into a necro
polis originated with M. Lenoir, lieutenant-general of the police, e and the proposal for removing the dead from St. Innocent's was в во
the more easily entertained, because a 'receptacle so convenient, and so unexceptionable in all respects, was ready to receive them. That part of the quarries under the Plaine de Mont-Souris was allotted for this purpose,
-a house known by the name of La Tombe Isoire, or Isouard, (from a famous robber, who once infested that neighbourhood,) on the old road to Orleans was purchased, with a piece of ground adjoining; and the first operations were to make an entrance into the quarries by a flight of seventy-seven steps, (the depth being seventeen metres, and to sink a well from the surface, down which the bones might be thrown. Meantime the workmen below walled off that part of the quarries which was designed for the great charnel-house, opened a communication between the upper and lower vaults, and built pillars to prop the roof. When all these necessary preliminaries had been completed, the ceremony of blessing and consecrating the intended catacombs was performed with great solemnity, and on that same day the removal from the cemetery began. This work was always performed at evening; the bones were brought in funeral cars, covered with a pall, with priests in their surplices following and singing the service of the dead. When they reached the catacombs the bones were shot down the well; and M. de Thury speaks of the ratiling and echoing which they made in their fall, l'épouvantable fracus des ossemens desséchés, précipités et roulants avec un bruit que répetuient uu loin les voûtes, as a sound which, though it might be little remarkable in itself, and easily imagined, was, with all its circumstances, one of the most impressive that ever was heard by human ears.
All the crosses, tombstones and monuments which were vot reclaimed by the families of the dead to whom they belonged were carefully removed, and placed in the field belonging to La Tombe Isoire: some among them were very curious. Many leaden coffins were buried in this field, one of them contained the remains of Madame de Pompadour, who, by her own desire, had been interred at the foot of what was called the cross of St. Innocent's. Thus far things had been conducted with the greatest decorum ; but as the Revolution proceeded La Tombe Isoire was sold as a national domain, the leaden coffins were melted, and all their monuments destroyed; those which could not be sold, or applied to any purpose of use, being demolished for mere mischief. A salle de danse was then opened on the spot!
Fortunately there was nothing in the catacombs which could provoke the wretches whom the Revolution had let loose upon society: and when, in the progress of national frenzy, churches were demolished or deserted, the bones from them were removed to this general deposit by order of the government. The catacombs served also as convenient receptacles for those who pe