Recycled Tombstones

26 rue Chanoinesse, 4ème arrondissement Ile de la Cité.

The very heart of Paris for nearly 2,000 years sits on a small island right in the center of the city. And if you walk past the dozen tourist shops and cafés selling post cards and expensive crappy coffée, nestled just behind the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral is a beautiful little medieval street that was spared during the great renovation works of Paris in the 19th century that left the rest of Ile de la Cité basically leveled. This street was home to the clergy of Notre Dame since the 14th century, as well as the clergy to the previous church that existed there before then. It’s reminants are still present, hidden behind massive doors to sleepy buildings.

Rue Chanoinesse in 1910 and today

There are 2 very important things to know when you are in Paris. 1. Always go through open doors that are usually locked if the opportunity to do so arises. There are many special hidden corridors (called coure in french. They lead to buildings behind the main building you see on the street) on the other side of big doors in Paris and it is an unspoken rule that you can always enter if you can manage to get through the door, which is usually always locked and accessable by a code 2. If you are in an old building, always check out the bathroom. More on that another day..

What’s behind the door?

Behind the red door at number 26 (I waited outside for approximately 4 minutes until a lady left and let me enter. She gave me a look like, “I know you don’t live here but IDGAF”) is an obviously old and narrow corridor leading to the entries of several apartment buildings. It is believed that this used to be an alley way leading to the parallel Rue des Ursins.

Watch your step here, and not just to avoid a broken ankle on the uneven cobblestone. You are walking upon the tombstones of the dead. If you look along the left wall at the ground, you can make out gothic style latin lettering, faded over hundreds of years of footsteps. Apparently these are the re-purposed tombstones of long gone religious members that used to reside in this area. So much for respecting the dead eh?

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