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Paris, France

The Gravestone Courtyard

Walk upon the mementos of the dead in this Parisian courtyard paved with medieval tombstones. 

In the heart of l’Île de la Cité, on the left side of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, a street called Chanoinesse winds its way through the heart of Paris.

A small part of the street was spared by successive urban transformation plans, and as a result it has kept its odd medieval character. This is because, until the 18th century, this area was the very protected domain of Chanoine monks who, isolated from the world, devoted themselves to their work and meditations. 

But the monastic past of the street is not the only mystery to be found here. Behind the red door of the building marked number 26, you’ll find one of the most unusual and macabre pieces of architecture to be found in the French capital. 

A small courtyard rests silently behind the intriguing scarlet door, and the stone-laid ground of the courtyard bears some Gothic-styled texts visible near the wall. After a bit of examination, you’ll realize their purpose — these are gravestones, which once belonged to churches that closed around the 19th century.

Much later, the gravestones were used by the architects of this lovely courtyard to tile the floor. And there they remain to this day, ready to be discovered and explored.

Know Before You Go

Nearest metro stop is Metro Cite on the 4. Note, the red door is usually locked, so no guarantees that this is accessible.