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François Claudius Koenigstein
Ravachol mugshot.jpg
Born (1859-10-14)14 October 1859
Saint-Chamond, Loire, France
Died 11 July 1892(1892-07-11) (aged 32)

François Claudius Koenigstein, known as Ravachol (1859–1892), was a French anarchist. He was born on 14 October 1859, at Saint-Chamond, Loire and died guillotined on 11 July 1892, at Montbrison.


Son of a Dutch father (Jean Adam Koenigstein) and a French mother (Marie Ravachol), he adopted his mother's maiden name after the father abandoned the family when he was only 8 years old. From that time on he had to support his mother, his sister, his brother and looked after his nephew. He eventually found work as a dyer's assistant, a job which he later lost. He was very poor throughout his life. For additional income he played accordion at society balls on Sundays at Saint-Étienne.

The bombings[edit]

He was the perpetrator of three dynamite attacks against representatives of the judiciary.

On 1 May 1891, at Fourmies, a workers demonstration took place for the eight hour day; confrontations with the police followed. The Police opened fire on the crowd, resulting in nine deaths amongst the demonstrators. The same day, at Clichy, serious incidents erupted in a procession in which anarchists were taking part and three were arrested and taken to the commissariat of police. At the commissariat, they were interrogated (and brutalised with beatings and injuries). A trial (the Clichy Affair (fr)) ensued, in which two of the three anarchists were sentenced to prison terms (despite the questionable situation).

Artist's rendition of the arrest of Ravachol.

These events, but also the ongoing repression of the communards, which had continued from the time of the insurrection of the Paris Commune of 1871, revolted Ravachol, and led him to acts of terrorism. He placed bombs in the living quarters of the Advocate General, Bulot (executive of the Public Ministry), the councillor Benoît who presided over the Assises Court during the Clichy Affair. Informed on by a restaurant employee called Lhérot, Ravachol was captured. In reprisal, the restaurant where Lhérot worked was bombed the day before Ravachol's trial.

Arrested on 30 March 1892 for his bombings at the Restaurant Véry (24, boulevard de Magenta, 10th arrondissement of Paris), his trial at the Assises Court of Seine took place on 26 April and he was condemned to prison for life. On 23 June, Ravachol was condemned to death in a second trial at the Assises Court of Loire for three killings, though his participation in two of them remains very doubtful (that of the murder, admitted by Ravachol, of the hermit of Montbrison was claimed to be the result of the poverty in which he lived). On 11 July 1892, Ravachol was publicly guillotined.

On 9 December 1893, Auguste Vaillant threw a bomb into the French Chamber of Deputies to avenge Ravachol (however the explosion merely injured one deputy).

Police mugshot of Ravachol, by Alphonse Bertillon, 1892

The myth of Ravachol[edit]

Ravachol became a somewhat romanticised symbol of desperate revolt and a number of French songs were composed in his honour, such as la Ravachole, to the tune of la Carmagnole.

Ravachol has also appeared as a minor character in Frank Chadwick's role playing game Space: 1889 as well as in several of his memoirs.

In 2011, the character of the anarchist "Claude Ravache" appeared in the movie Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. He was clearly inspired by Ravachol.

See also[edit]


  • Maitron, Jean. Ravachol et les anarchistes, collection Archives, 1964, 216 p. (French)

External links[edit]