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Concessions

A word about the permanence of burial in ParisAmericans are often shocked to find that, unlike in America, where burial is permanent, burial in much of Europe is often a temporary affair. Local customs in Europe differ, but many graves are essentially rented for various periods of time. Because of a limited amount of land, burial concessions in Paris are particularly stringent and are generally restricted to residents or plot holders. A permanent concession in Paris’ intra-muros area can cost around $8,000 per square yard. Many people purchase concessions for five, thirty or fifty years, after which time the grave is dug up and resold.

Jim Morrison’s grave in Pere-Lachaise is a case in point. In 2001 his grave, which had a thirty-year concession, was slated to be dug up, and, although cemetery officials would have been more than happy to remove him (and by association his ardent fans), they relented and apparently Jim will stay. But even permanent concessions aren’t necessarily permanent. If a tomb falls into disrepair and becomes an eyesore or safety hazard, the cemetery will post a notice that the tomb must be repaired in four years or is subject to removal.

Princess Diana Memorial (above the tunnel near the Flame of Liberty) 48° 51′ 51.06″ N 2° 18′ 3.09″ E

The Paris Catacombs

48° 50′ 2.45 N 2° 19′ 56.31 E

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10 am-5 pm Last admission 4 pm. Closed Mondays and Holidays Metro: Denfert-Rochereau Admission: 4-8 Euros

A notice on an informational placard next to the Catacombs of Paris (Catacombes de Paris) entrance reads: The tour is unsuitable for people with heart or respiratory problems, those of a nervous disposition and young children. It’s cold (57 degrees Fahrenheit constant temperature), dark, wet, scary, claustrophobic, there are no restrooms, and it will cost you about eight Euros to get in. But the tourists come by the thousands. Many of them come again and again and not always through the main entrance. In fact, there is a name for them: cataphiles.

Around 250 million years ago, during the Triassic Period, an area known as the Paris Basin began to form As the eons ticked on, sedimentary layers, which included large areas of limestone and gypsum, were deposited. The Romans were the first to start using the porous stone on a large-scale basis, using it to build bathhouses and carve sculptures. But the supply of easily mined limestone and gypsum was soon exhausted and they needed to start burrowing underground to obtain more stone. Thus were the seeds of the catacombs sown. Now and then a mine would collapse, but aside from a few hapless quarrymen, the collapsing mines didn’t affect the general populace. That is, until Paris started to grow southward and the mine collapses started swallowing up buildings and citizenry.

Enter architect Charles Axel Guillaumot, who was hired by Louis XVI to explore, map and stabilize the quarries. The timing was fortuitous because around the same time a series of unfortunate cave-ins (unrelated to the mines) in buildings next to the Cemetery of the Innocents sent putrefying bodies and a slimy ooze into the buildings’ basements.

Skulls are cemented in the wall.

Otis argued that the colonists’ rights derived from more than just acts of loyalty and fealty. The rights he believed the colonists possessed came from the same sources as English liberties namely, natural law, common law, and acts of Parliament. As a result of sharing these rights, Every British subject born on the continent of Country, or in any other of the British dominions, possesses all the natural, essential, inherent and inseparable rights of our fellow subjects in Great Britain. Furthermore, Otis argued that after the 1688 settlement, no one held that these rights were confined only to the English isle.

Mesa Metro Map After stating his argument in these stark terms, Otis then listed six fundamental rights of all Englishmen that specifically related to the Stamp Act controversy. All six of these rights concerned the limits or boundaries of the authority and power of a legislative body, in this case Parliament. Of these six, the second enumeration, the unalterable form of the supreme national legislature and the permanence of a subordinate legislature, Otis went into some detail. It is in this section that Otis first lays out his belief that the colonists, as Englishmen, had the right to be represented in Parliament. Just because the colonies had subordinate legislatures did not mean that they could not be so represented. And by being represented, their taxation would be more lawful and acceptable. Thus, Parliament might actually have the authority to tax the colonies, provided that the colonies were not deprived of representation.

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