Writings

The invisible city beneath paris

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

All cities are additions to a landscape that require subtraction from elsewhere. Much of Paris was built from its own underland, hewn block by block from the bedrock and hauled up for dressing and placing. Underground stone quarrying began in the thirteenth century, and Lutetian limestone was used in the construction of such iconic buildings as Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, and Saint-Eustache Church. The result of more than six hundred years of quarrying is that beneath the southern portion of the upper city exists its negative image: a network of more than two hundred miles of galleries, rooms and chambers, extending beneath several arrondissements. This network is the vides de carrières—the quarry voids, the catacombs, which together total an underground space around ten times the space of Central Park.