A unique historical former cemetery of Paris!!!

It has been kept quiet for many years as not the government favorite monument but it is of the kingdom of France. I like to tell you a bit more of the Cemetery of the Madeleine and see my related post on the Chapelle Expiatoire in Paris! This of course, was to be in my black and white series, however, found one picture not in my blog so here it is walking to the holy cellars of the Expiatory Chapel. Hope you enjoy it as I.

The Madeleine cemetery is a former cemetery located in the current 8éme arrondissement of Paris. This cemetery originally had its entrance in the rue de la Ville-l’Évêque, and depended on the former parish of Sainte-Madeleine de la Ville-Évêque. Towards the end of the 15C, Charles VIII had a chapel built for the brotherhood of the Madeleine, on the site of an oratory which time had partially destroyed. This chapel became a parish church in 1639, and was rebuilt twenty years later by Anne-Marie-Louise d’Orléans, and Nicolas Sévin, coadjutor of Sarlat, who laid the first stone on July 8, 1651. We know that work on the new church was halted during the French revolution. As for the old church, it was suppressed. The cemetery which adjoins the Church of the Madeleine (see post) and whose entrance was in the rue de la Ville-l’Évêque, at the corner of the second part of the rue de la Madeleine, had been preserved for the purpose of specially assigned to the burial of convicts executed on the Place de la Révolution , current Place de la Concorde.

Among the most famous main burials, there were 133 victims of the fireworks used during the celebration of the marriage of the Dauphin (what became Louis XVI) and Maria Antoniette (May 30, 1770) .The massacred Swiss guards at the Tuileries Palace (now razed) on 10 August 1792. The remains of Marie Antoniette were identified by a garter and a jawbone, an eyewitness who identified as the Queen, on the basis of having seen more than thirty years before her smile. Louis XVIII also tried in vain to look for the remains of his sister Madame Elisabeth (see post) in the cemetery; later tried also at the Errancis cemetery site, but to no avail. Others here of note were the Comtesse du Barry, the Girondins executed in 1793,and Charlotte Corday. King Louis XVIII to perpetuate the memory of the execution of his brother, Louis XVI, had an Expiatory Chapel or Chapelle Expiatoire built there in 1826, a chapel now included in the Place Louis-XVI square which occupies the space of the old cemetery.

But the guillotine cut down so many heads that the pavement of the Rue de la Ville-l’Evêque was constantly red with blood. Moreover, this mass grave was also in the too immediate vicinity of the Place de la Révolution. (again today Place de la Concorde) . This twofold circumstance, mentioned in a report by the police commissioner, motivated the removal of the old Madeleine cemetery. Its closure did not take place because of congestion, since we hastened, as soon as a trench was filled with corpses, to cover them with a layer of quicklime, but for reasons of hygiène, and recorded in the magistrate’s report.

During or after the French revolution, there were four cemeteries of revolutionary crimes in Paris to have received the bodies of the guillotines, the other three are the Picpus cemetery, the Errancis cemetery and the Sainte Marguerite cemetery.

A man and royal judge ,Pierre-Louis-Olivier Descloseaux, a resident of the Madeleine cemetery, bought the piece of land. Having witnessed the burials that were made there, and having drawn up the list of 1343 people guillotined from 1792 to 1794, He had circumscribed the exact place where the bodies lay and surrounded the square of a bower with weeping willows and cypresses. , in order to safeguard the remains of the royal couple and the other victims who were buried there. This cemetery was abandoned in March 1794. Under the Restoration, Louis XVIII had the Expiatory Chapel erected on this site, built by Pierre Fontaine.


A bit of further history on the cemeteries I like

The first sanctuary was built around 8 bd Malesherbes in the town of the Ville l’Evêque domain given to the bishop of Paris at the time of the king Dagobert. The parish had 3 cemetaries, A small next to the church of the 13C when two others were done , this one was reserve for the rich families. In the Catacombs of Paris there is a panel telling you the bones are from here, they were transfer to the catacombs in 1859.

There is a second cemetary called of the Poor by the Rue de Suresnes and Faubourg Ste Honoré, this cemetary served until 1720. The other was an exchange of land by the rue d’Anjou that belongs to the clergy, the cemetery was located at the intersection of rue d’Anjou and grand sewer (now boulevard Hausmann), covering the current Place Louis XVI. It was part of the land on which the Expiatory Chapel now stands, next to the same Madeleine.

This third cemetary is what saw the inhumain treatment of those beheaded in the French revolution and the remains of the second cemetary were transfer to the latter one, This third cemetary was by what today is the Place Louis XVI, entrance by 36 rue Pasquier and was opened in 1721. It had already received several bodies before it was name the cemetary of the revolution, It was at the Place du Carrousel from August 1792 and later Place Louis XV before name the Place de la Revolution, today Place de la Concorde.

The bad odors and repugnant views force the elected officials to finally closed it in 1794, and the bodies of the cementary were transfered to the one called cementary of Errancis or Monceau. Two years after closing the cemetary land was sold in 1796, and later again in 1802 to Pierre Louis Olivier Descloseaux

In 1815, once the remains of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were unearth and transferd to the Basilica Cathedral of Saint Denis ; the rest of the corps in the cemetary were transferred to the Catacombs of Paris. However, further searches found in 2018 on the lower cellars found boxes containing human remains. By 2020 in further searches it was determine that the bones of the executed were indeed still there in the stony walls of the Chapelle Expiatoire. As little support from government official to dig further nothing has been done, so far.

The above findings makes the Chapelle Expiatoire even more solemn and piety, The story of the finding of the king and queen last Bourbon absolute of France goes that the Pierre Louis Olivier Descloseaux lived in a house looking over the cementary and he was a Royal judge was able to pinpoint where the bodies of the king and queen were deposited, His house has disappeared but a tree marks the spot where it was. The rest you can read my post on the Chapelle Expiatoire here : https://paris1972-versailles2003.com/2021/03/05/the-chapelle-expiatoire-in-paris/

The official Chapelle Expiatoire: http://www.chapelle-expiatoire-paris.fr/en/

The Paris tourist office on the Chapelle Expiatoire: https://en.parisinfo.com/paris-museum-monument/71072/Chapelle-expiatoire

There you go folks, enjoy, the real history of France, a time to seek facts!!! For the lovers and seekers of history , this is a must in Paris.  And it is walking distance from the gare Saint Lazare train station. The Chapelle Expiatoire is a must while in Paris, me think You will stepping on the old cemetery Madeleine!

And remember, happy travels, good health,and many cheers to all!!!

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