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Bellies, bowels and entrails in the eighteenth century$
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Rebecca Anne Barr, Sylvie Kleiman-Lafton, and Sophie Vasset

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781526127051

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526127051.001.0001

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The belly and the viscera of the capital city

The belly and the viscera of the capital city

(p.23) 1 The belly and the viscera of the capital city
Bellies, bowels and entrails in the eighteenth century

Gilles Thomas

Manchester University Press

This chapter explores the catacombs and sewers of Paris: a maze of underground galleries that were essential to the proper functioning of the city above them. They create a vast network that resemble the vascular, respiratory and digestive systems of the human body. Unlike London, Paris was built with the very material taken from what later became the hole-ridden foundations of the city. To prevent Paris from collapsing, Louis XVI created an administration for the inspection and maintenance of the disused underground quarries of the city and its suburbs. At the same time, the Parisians increasingly complained and petitioned against the pestilential air exhaled by the city’s graveyards, as their grounds were as swollen as the belly of a corpse under the pressure of the gases of decomposition. This led to the closure of the graveyards and the relocation of the remains in the underground ossuary of Montsouris.

Keywords:   Paris, Catacombs, Excavations, Sewers, graveyards, Ossuaries, Human waste, Decomposition, bowels

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