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The Innocents, a charnelhouse which used to eat the dead and warm up the wretched's bums

Innocents cemetery, 19th c, T. Hoffbauer | Jebulon / Public domain
Burial place Innocents fountain

A big common grave

The current fountain replaced the Innocents cemetery. A cemetery flanked by its little neighbouring church founded in 1130, surrounded by walls in 1186: it looked like a cloister. Hey, the place was pretty disreputable: prostitutes used to gather here!

The book Guide Bleu de Paris (ed. Hachette) says 2 millions people were buried here, until the closedown of the cemetery in 1786 and the bones translation in the Catacombs.

Here, we had a huge common grave where corpses piled up! The Innocents’ earth became famous: "It ate a cadaver in 9 days", says the Guide de Paris mystérieux (ed Tchou)...

They ate and burnt bones

By the way, a famine, in 1590, forced people to «grind their fathers’ bones, piled up in the Innocents charnelhouse, to make bread»... The common grave was kept for the people. What about rich people?

They were buried in the galleries which used to surround the cemetery. Hey, they buried a lady, here, Yolande Bailly, who died at the age of 88 years old, in 1514. She was famous because she had... 293 kids! In those galleries, we used to find plenty of little shops: haberdasher’s shop, clothes, public writers...

Crooks also came at night to warm their bums up: they burnt bones! Besides, French writer Rabelais wrote in his Pantagruel: "Paris is a nice city, but not a good place to die. Because the wretched from the Saints-Innocents warmed their arses up with the dead’s bones."


The Innocents cemetery no longer exists. Oh, but we have two little remains. The first one is located in Louvre museum: the statue of Death, a big black skeleton designed by Germain Pilon.

It used to be in a locked closet, says the book Nouvelle Histoire de Paris et de ses Environs (J. de Gaulle), in the charnelhouse. They opened it for All Saints’ Day only... And at number 11 of rue des Innocents, just behind the fountain, we can see arches, vestiges of the charnelhouse!

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!