At the end of the 18th century, as the health problems associated with cemeteries multiplied throughout Paris, the city decided to close the cemeteries and transfer their contents to an underground site to remedy the problem. The first was the Saints-Innocents cemetery, located in what is now the Halles district, in 1785. The Parisian authorities chose an easily accessible site which, at the time, was located outside the capital's walls: the old Tombe-Issoire quarries, under the plain of Montrouge.
On 7 April 1786, the site was consecrated the "Municipal Ossuary of Paris" and then named the "Catacombs", in reference in particular to the Roman catacombs, whose history had intrigued and fascinated the public. The Paris catacombs were opened to the public in 1809, attracting ever more curious visitors.