Place Denfert Rochereau

Close by the Paris Observatory and the Aiglon Hotel, Place Denfert-Rochereau is in the 14th arrondissement of Paris.

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place d'enfer rochereau

Built in 1784, Place Denfert-Rochereau, once called Place d’Enfer (“Hell Place”), is a square in the south of Paris, formerly an entrance gate to the capital, where the entrance to the famous Catacombs is situated.

History of Place Denfert-Rochereau

Built around the two Ledoux pavilions, Place Denfert-Rochereau was located in the middle of the old Ferme Générale wall, also known as “the barrier of Hell”, marking the entrance and exit of Paris. The searches, inspections of goods and the resulting taxes exasperated merchants and Parisians alike. All that is left of the wall with its 47 gates are the gates at La Villette, Le Trône, Monceau and lastly, the Barrier of Hell.

 

Situated near the Aiglon Hotel, Place Denfert-Rochereau owes its present name to the colonel who took part in the defence of Belfort during the Franco–Prussian War in 1870. The square also features the replica of the Lion of Belfort, in memory of Colonel Denfert-Rochereau. The square is surrounded by three green spaces and also houses the oldest train station in Paris, which is today an RER train station.

The Catacombs of Paris, a unique sight to see

Place Denfert-Rochereau also contains the entrance to the famous Catacombs of Paris. Named after the necropolises in Rome, these former underground quarries contain 6 to 7 million bones. At the end of the 18th  century, the Innocents Cemetery, in what is now the Halles district, had become a breeding ground of disease for its inhabitants. The Council of State finally yielded to the multiple complaints and decided to close it down and transfer the bones to the Catacombs of Paris between 1786 and 1788. Later, the skeletons from the city’s largest cemeteries were also moved there.

 

Legend has it that the Catacombs contain the remains of famous people buried in the cemeteries of Paris, such as Rabelais, Jean de la Fontaine and Charles Perrault. This municipal ossuary is a labyrinth of some 300 kilometres long, 20 metres underground. Only a very small part of the labyrinth is open for visits, since the official visit to the Catacombs only lasts for 1.7 kilometres. Here, visitors walk through dark galleries filled with bones and discover an almost artistic presentation of death.

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