Gibbet of Montfaucon

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Gibbet of Montfaucon
Fourches.patibulaires.Montfaucon.2.png
Gibbet of Montfaucon, after Viollet-le-Duc
Coordinates 48°52′40″N 2°22′05″E / 48.877843°N 2.368078°E / 48.877843; 2.368078
Location Paris
Type Gallows
Length 12 to 14 m (39 to 46 ft)
Width 10 to 12 m (33 to 39 ft)
Height 4 to 6 m (13 to 20 ft)
Completion date Probably 13th century
Destroyed 1760

The Gibbet of Montfaucon (French: Gibet de Montfaucon) was the main gibbet of the Kings of France until the time of Louis XIII of France. It was a large structure located at the top of a small hill near the modern Place du Colonel Fabien in Paris, though during the Middle Ages it was outside the city walls and the surrounding area was mostly not built up, being occupied by institutions like the Hôpital Saint-Louis from 1607, and earlier the Convent of the Filles-Dieu[1] ("Daughters of God"), a home for 200 reformed prostitutes, and the leper colony of St Lazare.[2]

First built in the late 13th century, it was used until 1629 and then dismantled in 1760. As reconstructed in images by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc it had three sides, and 45 compartments in which people could be both hanged and hung after execution elsewhere. A miniature of about 1460 from the Grandes Chroniques de France by Jean Fouquet, and also a print of 1609, show a somewhat less substantial structure than that in the reconstructions, which may, like others by Viollet-le-Duc, make the structure grander and more complex than was actually the case. The miniature shows bodies hanging from beams running across the central space, resting on the piers, but Viollet-le-Duc shows slabs running round the sides. Both show a substantial platform in masonry, which ran round a central space at ground level in the reconstructions, entered by a tunnel through the platform, closed by a gate. Another print of 1608 shows only two tiers of compartments rather than the three of Viollet-le-Duc. The English travel writer Thomas Coryat saw it at about the same time and described it as "the fayrest gallowes that I ever saw, built on a little hillocke ... [with] fourteen pillars of free stone".[3]

The structure was also used for displaying the bodies of those executed elsewhere; in 1416 the remains of Pierre des Essarts were finally handed back to his family after three years at Montfaucon.[4]

The gibbet was a great favourite of popular historians and historical writers of the 19th century, appearing in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831) by Victor Hugo,[5] Crichton (1837) by William Harrison Ainsworth,[6] and La Reine Margot (1845) by Alexandre Dumas; both the last two tales centred around the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.[7]

Executions[edit]

Detail from the Grandes Chroniques de France, by Jean Fouquet, about 1460

Those executed or displayed there include:

Media[edit]

Montfaucon was one of many locations used in the PC game, Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars, which is set in Paris.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Dictionnaire administratif et historique des rues et des monuments de Paris, 243
  2. ^ Sumption, 8
  3. ^ Hamilton, 267
  4. ^ Lacroix, 446
  5. ^ [ Book 11, Chapter 4]
  6. ^ Ballad in Chapter 1 Charles IX at Montfaucon, and later when Coligny hangs there.
  7. ^ [ La Reine Margot, in translation]

References[edit]

  • [ "Caire (Rue du)"]. Dictionnaire administratif et historique des rues et des monuments de Paris (in French). Bureau de la Revue Municipale. 1855. p. 243. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  • Hamilton, E. Blanche, "Paris under the Last Valois Kings", The English Historical Review, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Apr., 1886), pp. 260–276, Oxford University Press, [ JSTOR]
  • Lacroix, Paul, A History of Manners, Customs and Dress During the Middle Ages and Renaissance Period, reprint BoD – Books on Demand, 2011, ISBN 3864030161, 9783864030161, [ google books]
  • Sumption, Jonathan, The Hundred Years War: Trial by Battle, Volume 1 of The Hundred Years War, 1999, University of Pennsylvania Press, ISBN 0812216555, 9780812216554, [ google books]