We humans have long been tunneling for many reasons. Ever since we realized the importance of hiding supplies and/or ourselves, we have been delving into hillsides and disguising entrances. At some point, it became cool to neatly organize the bones of our dead according to type. Skulls, femurs, and the rest were all used to create impressive corporeal displays that celebrated and/or commemorated the dead. The bone art found in catacombs is a rare form of expression only experienced through descending into dark and dank passageways. This list is dedicated to some of the most notable human-made tunnel systems in the world.
10. Znojmo Catacombs, Czech Republic
Worldwide, many places have been distinguished as catacombs even though they lack the first and foremost qualification: dead, interred bodies. The Znojmo Catacombs in the Czech Republic represents these posers, but these underground passages share an interesting history nonetheless. They were mostly built during the late middle ages (14th and 15thcenturies). The primary purpose of these underground mazes was to provide a safe haven from invaders. At times, these subterranean safe havens were self-sustainable for months on end. Fresh water wells and ample storage meant the city’s residents could outlast even the longest calamities.
9. Catacombs of London
Most of London’s catacombs can be traced to the Victorian era, back when Jack the Ripper first haunted nightmares and fictional, sleuthing characters such as Sherlock Holmes began solving crimes. Gas lamps were as common as railways, and the Industrial Revolution was in full swing. The premiere catacomb locations are the West Norwood and Kensal Green cemeteries. These grounds are famous for their Gothic and Victorian architecture and historical significance. Although devoid of interred corpses, another area of interest for spelunkers is the Camden catacombs that run underneath the Camden Market.
8. l’Ossuaire Municipal, Paris
Paris always has an answer for anything London does, and when it comes to catacombs they have over compensated once again. During the same period as London’s catacombs were built so too were holes being dug under Paris for disposing of the dead. Catacombs proved a cheap way for the lower class to lay their dead to rest. The bones of over six million decorate the walls of the main ossuary. The place is usually open for tourism when it isn’t being vandalized (the ossuary was closed in 2009 for such a reason). Have a look inside. Like London, there are many tunnels of different origins (with or without human remains) that fully constitute the “Catacombs of Paris”. One could spend days fully exploring the world below this modern metropolis.
7. Monastery of San Francisco, Lima
Construction of the Church and Monastery of San Francisco was completed in 1774. Over one hundred years in the making, the structures withstood many earthquakes only to be damaged by a quake in 1970. The complex baroque architectural style of the grounds dates to 1600, and emanates a special grandeur that has helped earn the monastery a place as a world renowned site of historical importance. The grounds house catacombs that acted as Lima’s first cemetery. The tunnels below were used for burials until 1803, and have been frequented since by pilgrims and tourists amazed by the skeletal patterns along the walls. Intermingling are the bones of an estimated 70,000 burials that are thought to have happened here. The catacombs were lost for a period of time only to be excavated in 1943.
6. Rabat Catacombs, Malta
Off the southern tip of Italy, in the middle of the mythical Mediterranean Sea, lies the island archipelago that makes up the nation of Malta. On this Island, the village Rabat is home to a sprawling labyrinth of tunnels and tombs. A small settlement of around 7,000 people, Rabat shares a patch of land that used to be a full-on Roman city. Much of the Roman influence that has been preserved can be found underground. St. Paul’s and St. Agatha’s catacombs offer two nearby stops for tomb tourists. The type of burials found in St. Paul’s catacombs indicate the complexes date at least as far back to the 4th century. Only a small fraction of the catacombs are open to the public, but this doesn’t mean you can’t get an early Roman Christian experience while enjoying the twists and turns of the bleak corridors.