Carrières des Capucins


Useful Information

Location: Hôpital Cochin, 27 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques, 75014 Paris.
Metro M6, station Saint-Jacques.
(48.83736682233963, 2.3388313490967367)
Open: only by reservation.
[2023]
Fee: only by reservation.
[2023]
Classification: SubterraneaRock Mine
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=1,200 m, T=13 °C, H=95 %, VR=18 m, St=200.
Guided tours:  
Photography: not allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:  
Address: SEADACC, Hôpital Cochin, 27 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques, 75014 Paris, Tel: +33-1-43-89-78-03. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

13th century begin of limestone quarrying.
17th century quarries abandoned due to a decision by the City Council.
1653 Capuchins consolidate their subsoil before building their novitiate (Cochin hospital).
1973 SEADACC founded.
1983 opened to the public.
1990 declared a Historic Monument (partially).
1999 declared a Historic Monument (whole site).

Description

The Carrières des Capucins (Capuchin Quarries) are a small section of the vast underground quarries below Paris. Between the 13th and 18th century limestone was quarried for buildings. The quarries extend under 13th, 14th, and 5th arrondissement.

Today's Cochin Hospital is the site of the former Capuchin Novitiate. In 1645, before the Capuchins built the Novitiate on this site, they invested a considerable amount of effort into consolidating their subsoil. The Carthusian monks were the first to consolidate their subsoil before building their monastery in 1259. Several other institutions used the same care. When the Capuchins explored and stabilized the quarries, they were renamed Carrières des Capucins. The Capuchin monks had no relation to those quarries before, but the original name was lost, probably the quarries were abandoned for some time at that point.

Today they are maintained by a non-profit association named Société d'études et d'aménagement des anciennes carrières des Capucins (SEADACC). It seems the name is too complicated, even for themselves, so they only use the acronym. We are not really happy with the intentions and the qualification of this association. We found texts like this on their website: "The ionisation of the rock, which is constant in these places, generates a permanent euphoria, the air is pure and invigorating, a feeling of well-being sets in, tiredness fades away and time is annihilated." The esoteric nonsense, actually the amount of carbon dioxide in the air is higher which causes the vegetative system to relax. However, it is quite hard to get information for foreigners, as they have protected their website from translation. For god’s sake, they are a non-profit association. There is no need to fear copyright infringement. On the other hand, they renovated the Gallo-Roman quarries beneath the Muséum de Paris between 1975 and 1977.

The Inspection Générale des Carrières was created in 1777 by Louis XVI to survey the quarries of Paris, and to fortify the foundation to prevent fontis (collapses). In 200 years they did a good job in filling in unstable quarries. Others were destroyed in the last 50 years by architects who inject the underground with concrete without trying to safe the historic quarries. They obviously ignore that those quarries are Historic Monuments. Since the late 1970s urban exploration started and caused not only vandalism, but also weaken the quarries by damaging support pillars. All of them are the enemy of SEADACC.

The Fontaine des Capucins (Capuchin Fountain) was built by Trémery in 1810 under the direction of the quarry inspector Héricart de Thury. Its purpose is not to collect water, it was needed to check the height of the water table. For this purpose a semicircular staircase was cut into the rock, the water table can be seen at the lower end of the stairs. The design is also known as SubterraneaStepwell. It's not necessary to walk down to the water, as windows with pillars allow a view from the outside. The wall at the inside has a scale graduated in centimetres, known as the "low-water scale", cut directly into the hardest limestone. It's possible to measure the height of the water table. The fountain is sometimes used as a baptismal font.

But the main reason why we are not happy with the SEADACC is the fact that its quite complicated to get a tour, which makes it factually impossible for non-Parisians to participate. The only way to join a guided tour is to email them, declare your interest in visiting the quarries and ask to include you on the waiting list. If you are lucky, you may receive an email one day, to inform you about the next visit and ask for confirmation. Guided visits take two hours, are held only in French, and are proposed only for small groups, 15 people maximum. As far as we know, it's neither possible to reserve a certain date for a group nor to visit at an open day. They do not even open on the European Heritage Days, which has become the standard for most other sites. We do not know why they renovate the quarries if they work very hard to keep visitors out.