"Intestine of Leviathan"
in the Sewers of Paris
...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 form. (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 miles long.
10.3 The grand sewers in 1859 below
the Rue Royal
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.
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!