7.3.11

Chapelle Expiatoire

The most famous victims of the guillotine (see previous posts) during the Revolutionary years were of course Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette, executed respectively in January and in October 1793. I recently made a post about their executioners, the Sansons (buried at the Montmartre Cemetery).
Their bodies were brought to a cemetery, quite close to Place de la Concorde (see previous post) - then called Place de la Révolution – the Madeleine Cemetery. The Madeleine Church was then not the same as today – the present one dates from the 19th century (see previous post) - and was surrounded by several small cemeteries. On the plan from about 1800, you can, compared to today’s map, follow the way their remains were carried. (Some source indicates that Louis XVI first was carried to the old Madeleine church for a short ceremony.)
Louis XVI (“Louis Capet”) and Marie Antoinette (“Veuve Capet”) did not get any individual graves - the cemetery was used for a great number of other victims of the guillotine -, but a royalist neighbour to the cemetery noted the exact place and when the Royalty was restored after Napoleon’s fall, in 1815, the remains could be recovered and they were brought to where most other French Kings and Queens are buried, the Saint Denis Basilica (see previous post).

Louis XVIII, the brother of Louis XVI, decided to build an expiatory chapel on the ground of the cemetery, which had actually been closed rather soon after the execution of the King and the Queen. It took some ten years before the chapel was ready. You can now find it, surrounded by a little park, Square Louis XVI. The inscription on the front of the entrance reads in translation: “King Louis XVIII raised this monument to consecrate the place where the mortal remains of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette, transferred on 21 January 1815 in the royal tomb of Saint-Denis, reposed for 21 years. It was finished during the second year of the reign of Charles X, year of grace 1826.”
Under the dome of the chapel you can find the statues of Louis XVI (by F.J. Bosio) and of Marie Antoinette (by J-P Cortot).
Downstairs is the crypt, where an altar indicates the place where Louis XVI’s remains were found.

As said, above, the Madeleine Cemetery was closed rather soon and the majority of the Revolutionary guillotine victims were buried in mass graves at the Errancis Cemetery (disappeared), the Sainte Marguerite Cemetery (I will revert in a later post) and at the Picpus Cemetery (see previous post). As indicated in previous posts about the guillotines, there were rather few executions at Place de la Concorde, although of course of some of the more famous personalities. Most of the Revolutionary executions took place at the Carrousel, Place de la Bastille and close to Place de la Nation.

For further information related to the above, you can also to refer to the following posts: "Marie Antoinette", "The Temple", "La Conciergerie".

34 comments:

Melissa said...

This is very interesting, thank you for sharing it Peter. How have I missed this on my travels to Paris??

Owen said...

Excellent reporting Peter, I'm so glad to see you went back when it was open... I'm going to have to go back one day before too long, as I've never seen the inside... but at least know now that it is only open certain days of the week. What a terrible time it must have been, with so many thousands of people losing their heads. Right in the heart of Paris.

Simony said...

I am amazed by the number of cemeteries Paris has. I guess that's what happens after hundreds of years of history! America is so young, there's not such a thing as that many cemeteries and beautiful tombs.

Flartus said...

Truly fascinating. Your knowledge of Parisian history is quite remarkable. I expect to learn quite a lot just by reading your blog...much more interesting than a class in school! (May I call you "Professor?" j/k!)

Studio at the Farm said...

Fascinating and detailed information. Thank you, Peter.

Thirtytwo degrees said...

Thank you so much, Peter, as I did already find the link to the guillotine;thus, I found the information about LaFayette's gravesite and the tradition on the 4th of July. I was surprised to learn that the guillotine had been used by the Nazi's in W.W. II. That would make a great book too. I am checking on backposts, but found this absolutely fascinating. Thank you. Streets that housed the guillotine have some claim to fame!

Olivier said...

je ne connaissais pas cete chapelle ni son histoire, tres intéressant

ALAIN said...

Ce n'est pas l'épisode le plus glorieux de l'histoire de France. Je ne sais pas comment on raconte actuellement cet évènement aux enfants, dans les écoles, mais quand j'étais au Lycée, les professeurs d'histoire trouvaient que les révolutionnaires, tout bien pesé, n'avaient pas eu tort.

Cergie said...

C'est pour cela donc que l'église de la Madeleine est un lieu de mémoire pour les royalistes aujourd'hui encore le jour anniversaire de l'exécution de Louis XVI ?!

Adam said...

I know in the Errancis cemetery they used quicklime to ensure that nobody would be able to dig up any remains in the future. I wonder why they didn't do that in this case too.

Bettina said...

It is, as always, so very interesting to read your posts, Peter. Thank you !

Ola said...

sad end of the royal couple eventhough the architecture of the chappel is so beautiful

Synne said...

I feel very morbid when writing this, but I absolutely love visting toms and crypts and cemeteries. It's just so fascinating! My last stay in Paris included a visit to (among many other similar places) Saint Denis, which I found thrilling, even though I'm no royalist - those were real people! They rest here!

Cezar and Léia said...

Bonjour dear Peter,
An amazing history lesson today, your post is wonderful, thanks for all information and the lovely pictures.
I'm impressed by that crypt and the path with fabulous perspective.
Very well done!
Léia :)

hpy said...

Stp, parle nous un peu des vivants la prochaine fois ;-)

Harriet said...

Quite an interesting post. I like the top photo showing the repetition of the arches.

sonia a. mascaro said...

Peter,
You did an amazing post with great photos and detailed information. Thank you for sharing!

Vagabonde said...

You always pack so much information into your posts and teach us so much. I did not know about this chapel. When I was in school in France we would take field trips to St Denis to see all the crypts and statues but we never went to the square you show – it is in the 8ème so that would have been far for us. Very interesting.

Jeanne said...

Thanks so much Peter for this information and good shots of Square St. Louis XVI. I put this on my must see list. The 8e has so much to explore!

Starman said...

I've always wondered why Marie Antoinette was beheaded.

Olga said...

Excellent post. I would love to visit this beautiful chapel!

Maria O. Russell said...

That was the least that poisonous, malicious and jealous younger brother could do for the Royal couple. His meanness could not of course spare his poor niece Madame Royale. He told her that little Louis XVII was Fersen's son. In her memoirs she wrote: "I know that my little brother did not die in prison as everyone believes." Why she said that is explained in full in Evangeline Bruce's book "
Napoleon and Josephine"
I never knew about this chapelle before. In one of the photos I can see her cipher. I always loved it! Hers and Fersen's motto was "Tutto a te mi guida"
What a wonderful post, Peter! Mil gracias.

Maria O. Russell said...

That was the least that poisonous, malicious and jealous younger brother could do for the Royal couple. His meanness could not of course spare his poor niece Madame Royale. He told her that little Louis XVII was Fersen's son. In her memoirs she wrote: "I know that my little brother did not die in prison as everyone believes." Why she said that is explained in full in Evangeline Bruce's book "
Napoleon and Josephine"
I never knew about this chapelle before. In one of the photos I can see her cipher. I always loved it! Hers and Fersen's motto was "Tutto a te mi guida"
What a wonderful post, Peter! Mil gracias.

Jeanie said...

Intuitively, I knew they did executions in more than one spot, but this post really brought it into focus. Thanks. (If I wasn't already planning on doing my presentation in French class on flea marketing, I think I'd do it on this! Great topic!)

Nathalie said...

Passionnant !
Je ne connaissais pas les chapelles expiatoires.

(passes-tu désormais tout ton temps dans les cimetières ? Je reconnais que c'est fascinant !)

Ruth said...

All of this information is surprising to me! For one, I did not know (or remember) that Louis and Marie Antoinette were executed so far apart in the year. I did not know about this crypt and cemetery by the Madeleine. Thank you, always, for the deep gathering you do and show us. Just tremendous. I think yours should be the central site for all information of Paris, not wiki. :)

Capy89 said...

oh, I love the 3rd picture! I can see some changes in urban planning. I'm also impressed by lot of information you give in this post :)
Although Hanoi has a long history but everything related to kings seem dissapear...Luckily, we still have many king's tombs with unique architecture in Hue city.

Trotter said...

Always learning with your posts... Amazing!!

PS: How do you manage to draw on the maps?

caterpillar said...

Amazing architecture...and lot of new information....

ParisBreakfasts said...

Ah ha!
More TALES FROM THE CRYPT again...

Un peu de Printemps encore please...?

belts said...
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Watches said...
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Peter said...

I deleted two purely commercial comments.

Anonymous said...

After the death of Marie Antoinette, Count Axel von Fersen, her great friend, was totally devastated.
He left in his diary a description of his feelings.
Not even, moreover, by reading between the lines can one fathom the bottomless depths of his emotion.

"Although I was prepared for it," he wrote, . it certainly overcame me. . . . The Gazette of the 17th speaks of it. It was on the 16th, at half-past eleven, that this execrable crime was committed, and the Divine vengeance has not yet fallen upon the monsters." Later he wrote: "I can only think of my loss. . . . That she should have been alone in her last moments. . . . That is horrifying! The monsters of hell! No; without vengeance, my heart will never be content."

In Vienna, some years later, waiting for an interview with the Emperor of Austria, he saw Marie Antoinette's daughter pass by with a group of ladies.
He wrote in his diary that when he saw the girl, all of a sudden he felt that he could not breathe. For him it was like seeing her mother again...
He wrote that Marie Therese's face was like her aunt's, Madame Elisabeth, Louis' XVI's beloved sister. But her figure and her mannerism were just like her mother....

Maria O. Russell