The Real Paris
A City Divided
Paris & Politics
Space & Money
...Paris has another Paris under
herself; a Paris of sewers; which has its streets, its
crossings, its squares, its blind alleys, its arteries,
and its circulation, which is slime, minus the human
(Les Miserables, Jean Valjean; Book II, ch.1)
10.1 the Paris Sewers
Early/ Pre-Revolutionary History:
Paris's first sewer system was built in the 1200's: it consisted
of open troughs that ran down the center of each cobblestone
road. It was not very effective and contributed to the spread
of diseases such as the Black Death.
The first underground sewer was built in 1370 beneath the Rue
Montmartre, and drained into a tributary of the Seine River.
The Sewers were expanded slowly throughout the next 400 years.
However due to a lack of coverage beneath the city and widespread
disrepair the sewers remained a problem for the city.
Sewers During the Revolution:
10.2 The sewers in 1810
as shown below the rue Saint Denis
It was during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte that
the sewers of Paris were finally brought up to speed.
In 1805 a man called Bruneseau was commissioned to undertake
the building of 182 new miles of sewer:
The complete visitation of the subterranean sewer
system of Paris occupied seven years, from 1805 to
1812. While yet he was performing it, Bruneseau laid
out, directed and brought to an end some considerable
works; in 1808 he lowered the floor of the Ponceau,
and creating new lines everywhere, he extended the
sewer... At the same time he disinfected and purified
the whole network. (Les Miserables, Jean
Valjean; Book II, Ch. 4)
During the time of Victor Hugo, in 1850 Baron Haussmann
engineered separate underground passages for drinking water
and sewage using iron piping and digging techniques made possible
by the Industrial Revolution, and in 1878 the system was 360
Besides the sanitary function of the sewers, in
Paris they were also a source of tourism.
Starting in the mid 1800's, tours were given of sections of
the sewer, and were very popular during the time of Victor Hugo.
The grand sewers in 1859 below the Rue
Paris's Sewers Today:
Today, the Sewers extend for 1,300 miles, and tours are just
as popular as ever There is even a Sewer Museum in Paris!