History of the Paris Sewers

" The sewer is the conscience of the city. In this lurid place there is darkness, but there are no secrets."-Les Miserables, Jean Valjean Pt.2

Fun "clean" facts about the Paris sewers

  • Bruneseau was the man to captain the first cleansing process of Paris' sewer system since it had been built (masonry dated back to 1412) in 1805
  • Thanks to Bruneseau, when the 1860's rolled around the Paris sewer was no longer the "stink hole" but "neat, cold, straight, correct."
  • Bruneseau was the one to say, "Health of body reflects cleanliness of soul."
  • Paris sewers in 1860's was estimated to be $35 a yard, there being 140 miles of sewers totaling $9 million

Felix Nadar: autoportrait dans les catacombes, 1861


The Sewers according to Victor Hugo

Hugo's sewers were the places where the criminal class went to escape after committing a crime including the character Thenardier who posessed keys to open the iron gates which sealed the sewers shut.

The sad state of cleanliness of the sewers almost always guaranteed a sucessful getaway, but police quickly caught on; for example Javert waited outside for Jean Valjean to emerge from the depths.