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Cardinal Richelieu and the ghosts of empires past

I nursed a Calvados at a café across from the Cathedral of Notre Dame, disconsolate after a vain attempt to gain access to the sewers of Paris. The Musée des Égouts de Paris, the Paris Sewers Museum, provided the only access to the secret passageways that led into the secret ossarium of the Carthusian monks where once I conjured the ghost of Cardinal Richelieu.

Under Richelieu, the evil genius of the Thirty Years’ War, France defeated the Austrian and Spanish Empires with twice its population and many times its wealth, killing two-fifths of the population of Central Europe.

But the museum was shut due to the pandemic, as was most of the city. I had no problem finding a table opposite the cathedral. But how to find the Cardinal? My assignation would have taken me past centuries-old brickwork through narrow winding staircases to the ancient rock until I reached the small chamber where the bones of the Carthusian dead sat arrayed in pyramids. But the path was blocked.