Massacres of La Glacière

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The bloody massacres of La Glacière that took place during 16–17 October 1791 in the Tour de la Glacière of the Palais des Papes at Avignon, then but recently united to France, were an isolated and early example of violence in the opening phase of the French Revolution; the massacres are interpreted by French historians not as presaging the September massacres of 1792 and the Reign of Terror, but rather as a last episode in the struggle between partisans and advocates of the reunion of the papal enclave of Avignon and the Comtat Venaissin with the state of France.

In this context, with the opening events of the Revolution, the revolutionary Avignonnais had forced a new municipal election, expelled the papal Vice-Legate (12 June 1790) and demanded to be united with France, while the conservative rural population of Carpentras remained faithful to their papal overlord. The outcome was virtually civil war in the region, with assassinations and mob violence.

In this superheated atmosphere, following circulated reports of miraculous tears on the Madonna of the Cordeliers, a papiste mob lynched a patriot municipal administrator, Lescuyer, who was suspected without foundation of planning to seize church property. Jean Duprat, a silk merchant elected mayor of Avignon the previous June, was suspected of having participated. Some sixty persons were summarily executed in a tower of the Palais des Papes, following the lynching. Amnesty for the executioners, as patriots, was debated in Paris, as justice in revolutionary France became more and more politicised.

Mathieu Jouve Jourdan, nicknamed "Jourdan Coupe-Tête", was implicated in these atrocities, eventually traduced to the revolutionary tribunal, condemned to death and guillotined, 8 prairial an II (27 May 1794).

The savage massacres of La Glacière, dramatised in popular engravings, were traumatic in the region and appalled the reading public of the Enlightenment; they reverberated for a generation: Jules Michelet devoted two chapters of his massive history of the Revolution to the massacres.

Further reading[edit]

  • Martin, Jean-Clément, Violence et Révolution: Essai sur la naissance d’un mythe national. (Paris: Éditions du Seuil), 2006.
  • Moulinas, René, Les massacres de la Glacière: Enquête sur un crime impuni, Avignon 16–17 octobre 1791. (Aix-en-Provence: Edisud), 2003.