Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Picpus, Walled Garden of Memory: Digital Archives

The Cimetière de Picpus, situated in the 12th arrondisement, is a haunting place to visit.  The largest private cemetery in Paris, it contains the tomb of Lafayette and many other notables.  A common grave, marked by single cross, contains the remains of 1,306 victims of the guillotine, executed indiscriminately on the nearby place du Trône-Renversé, between 14 June and 18 July 1794, in the final bloody phase of the Terror.  In the chapel, their names are inscribed on the walls. The nuns of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary keep a silent vigil.....

Picpus: Walled Garden of Memory (Link to video)

Themed on the cemetery, the website Picpus: Walled Garden of Memory: Digital Archives is the fruit of a project based far away from Paris, at Northwestern University on the banks of Lake Michigan.  The centrepiece is the short film above which won an award (not sure what) in 2006 . The current site is described as a prototype for  "an eventual multi-level, interactive, world-wide-web-accessible archive of multimedia associated with Picpus, the French Revolution, and a number of contiguous subject areas."  The initial funding was 2006 and the website is copyrighted 2006-9, so I'm not sure if the project is still live; the resources are in place but the interface is obviously unfinished.

The result is an interesting website, with a lots of great material, but one which is difficult to navigate.  There is a functioning "Search" but none of the helpful-sounding "Browse" options actually works. Also, the archive mixes Revolutionary resources with material relating to the adjacent Rothschild Hospital which was used as a deportation camp for Jews during the Nazi Occupation; there is no easy way to filter this latter out.

While we are waiting (possibly in vain) for better functionality on the site, here is a list of some of the more interesting items relating to the 18th century:

General writings on the Picpus Cemetery

Brochure intitulée "Le Jardin de Picpus" (p/id 1194:1194)
"Out-of-print 21-page booklet on the history of the Picpus Cemetery, written by Sister M.Magdeleine S. Rougier,"

Les Dernières Victimes de la Terreur (p/id 1362:1362)

"A collection of essays compiled in a book printed for the 200th anniversary of the Picpus Cemetery. Includes essays on style and dress during the Revolution, the revolutionary tribunal, literary men and the Revolution, and the purchase of the Picpus grounds during the 19th century. 1994".

Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary at Picpus

Geniteau, Marie-Lucie (p/id 5012:10103)
Marie-Lucie Geniteau talks about Picpus and the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Perpetual Adoration (video)

In Book 5 of Part 2 of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables" Dark Hunt, Silent Hunters", Jean Valjean carrying Cosette is chased by Javert and his men. Cornered in a dead-end alley, he climbs over a wall and finds himself in the garden of the Picpus Convent .Book 6,  Le PETIT-PICPUS gives a history of religious order . In Book 7, LES CIMETIERES PRENNENT CE QU'ON LEUR DONNE, Jean Valjean becomes gardener of the convent.

Photographs of the Cemetery and of individual tombs

View of the Picpus Cemetery (p/id 1161:1161)

The archive includes a comprehensive set of photographs of the modern cemetery and of the individual tombs. 

Each photograph has a separate entry in the archive, and information about those interred. There are too many to list but the photos can easily enough be found by keyword or name search.

Maps of Paris

This is a slightly odd item to include, but is a nice collection of historical maps. It has been scanned from an original in the Northwestern University Library.“This document indexes a collection of maps of Paris produced up to 1789 and includes detailed annotations. Verniquet’s celebrated "Atlas du plan général de la ville de Paris" is among the maps included.”  There are separate entries for the individual maps. (Search “Anciens plans de Paris” for a list)

Miscellaneous stuff on Lafayette

La Fayette (p/id 1201:1201) Engraving, musée Carnavalet
[Well it is an American website, and he is buried there....]

Lafayette's Career and Historical Significance  (p/id 5037:10028)
Article written by Lloyd Kramer, Professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and author of "Lafayette in Two Worlds" 1996 The University of North Carolina Press. (e-text)

Washington's Generals: Lafayette (p/id 5119:10109)
Washington's Generals; series on the American Revolution produced by Cosgrove/Meurer Productions,Inc. for The History Channel which includes a one-hour documentary on Lafayette  (video)

Jean-Melchior de Roquefeuil, gives a brief history of the French Society of the Cincinnati, of which Lafayette was a member (video)

De La Fayette à Pershing (p/id 1001:1001)
Book entitled "From La Fayette to Pershing"; Compilation of images and texts

Photographs taken at Château de Lagrange-Bléneau [English Trans. "Lagrange Castle"]; July 2004 (p/id 1111:1111)
“Photos taken at Lagrange castle, home of Lafayette upon his return form exile in 1799 until his death in 1834. The Josée et René de Chambrun Foundation , owner of Lagrange, only permits exterior photos. Adrienne de Noailles, wife of Lafayette, had inherited the Lagrange castle and its grounds which belonged to her family. Lafayette's properties had been confiscated when he emigrated. Lagrange was the only estate that still belonged to them”.

Lettre de Lafayette au ministre de la marine, le marquis de Castries. (p/id 1074:1074)
Two letters from French archives; Lafayette is requesting support for the American troops (image)

Victims of the Terror : The Martyrs of Compiègne

The “martyrs of Compiègne” were Carmelite nuns, who went to the guillotine with saintly courage and are buried in the communal “fosse” at Picpus.  

Plaque on which is inscribed "To the memory of the 16 Carmelites of Compiègne who died for their faith the 17th of July, 1794, beatified the 27th of May, 1906"

The Mantle of Elijah: The Martyrs of Compiègne of as of Modern Age  (p/id 5113:10098) (e-text)

Victims of the Terror : Set of archive sources relating to the "prison plots"

Several of the mass executions of the final days of the Terror, were associated with dubious “prison plots”. (See Wikipedia “Prisons of the Reign of Terror",
The documents in this section are facsimile copies, without transcripts, though there may well be print versions elsewhere.  Here are some of the more interesting ones. For a full list, search for the prison names.

In all on 19, 21 and 22 Messidor 146 prisoners from the Luxembourg were executed (so-called “Second Conspiracy of  Luxembourg ”).  A further 45 were executed on 4 Thermidor (“Third Conspiracy of Luxembourg”)
Observations sur La Maison du Luxembourg (p/id 5060:10051)
“This nine page manuscript is anonymous, and there is a note in the top left corner of the first page that says that "these observations were made near the 15 prairial." The letter addresses the state of the prison, including the inaptitude of the warden, and the ineffectiveness of the locks. After a general description of the prison, the letter is divided into the following topics: solitary cells, affixing locks, salubrity, means of subsistence, and bread. There is a detailed commentary on each topic.”

Hearing before the Revolutionary Tribunal of 21st Messidor Year II - July 9th 1794 : “ On 21 messidor II, 50 prisonners of Luxembourg were found guilty of conspiracy and condemned to death , except for a 14 year old boy who was given a 2-year jail sentence. One of the convicts who was beheaded on the Place du Trone was Aymar de Nicolay, 24.
Indictment of 50 prisoners from the Luxembourg prison, dated 21 messidor II( 9 July 1794) (p/id 5049:10041)
From AN/W410.943: indictment , names of prisonners

Hearing before the Revolutionary Tribunal  (4 Thermidor - 22 July 1794):
"Extrait du registre des audiences", Catherine Françoise de Noailles, Catherine Dominique de Noailles, et al. (p/id 1021:1021)
“This is an extract from the court proceedings of several individuals on trial at once. Among others, the mother, sister and grandmother of Adrienne de Noailles were found guilty of conspiracy in the Luxembourg Prison , and were guillotined thermidor 4 on the Place du Trone then buried in the second mass grave at Picpus”

Saint-Lazare plot: 74 individuals were executed on 6-8 Thermidor, on the very eve of the fall of Robespierre. Among them were the poet André Chénier and Madame Helvétius’s friend Jean-Antoine Roucher.  Marie-Antoinette’s hairdresser Monsieur Léonard - though maybe it was his brother -  was also among the victims.

Hearing before the Revolutionary Tribunal (7 Thermidor - 25 July 1794):
Jugement du 7 thermidor An 2eme, Affaire de la maison d'arrêt LAZARRE (p/id 5097:10085)
“The 14-page proceedings of the collective trial of 38 prisoners held at St Lazare, accused of conspiring to escape, of which 35 were found guilty,including poets André Chénier, Antoine Roucher, and Jean-François Antié, known as Léonard,hairdresser of Marie-Antoinette”.
“This seven-page document lists the 27 conspirators as well as the specific accusations brought against them in the Revolutionary Tribunal as part of the St. Lazare affair.”

Procès Verbal de ROUCHER, CHÉNIER, autres.  (p/id 1233:1233)
“Trial Proceedings concerning Roucher, Chénier, et al. All twenty-seven accused are found guilty and condemned to death by the judges and jury.”

La déclaration des jurés dans l'affaire de la maison d'arrêt de Saint Lazare (p/id 5100:10088)
“This four-page document is the jury's decision in the case against the prisoners at Saint Lazare, accused of conspiracy against the Republic. On 8 Thermidor, the following day, the 25 prisoners were executed at la Place du Trône along with 12 additional prisoners found guilty of the same .”

Other material on Chénier and Roucher

Jean-Antoine Roucher and André Chénier. (p/id 5014:10010)
André Roucher speaks of his ancestor, the poet Jean-Antoine Roucher, guillotined with his fellow poet, André Chénier (video)

Paintings and prints:
Portrait de Jean-Antoine Roucher, l'auteur du Poème des Mois, à l'âge de 30 ans.   (p/id 1206:1206)

Portrait of Jean-Antoine Roucher at the age of 30, by PUJOS

Roucher (p/id 1206:1206))

André Chénier, peint à St. Lazare le 29 Messidor, l'An II  (p/id 1195:1195)
Portrait of André Chénier, by DUPONT/ Joseph-Benoît SUVEE

André Chénier at St Lazare prison (p/id 1196:1196)
André Chénier at St. Lazare prison, by ROBERT.

L'appel des condamnés (dernières victimes de la Terreur) (p/id 1199:1199)
Engraving of The comdemned being called for execution, André Chénier seated at center.

La dernière charrette, Révolution de 1789 (p/id 1205:1205)
Engraving; Drawing by Raffet; Engraving by Beyer

Les mois, poème en douze chants, par Roucher (p/id 1002:1002)
"Jean-Antoine Roucher was a poet who is best known for Les Mois, a 12-verse poem describing the months of the year. He was guillotined in July 1794 and buried in the fosse commune of the Picpus cemetery."
André Chénier ; opera in four acts / music by Umberto Giordano ; libretto by Luigi Illica. (p/id 1003:1003) 1896 Opera, Libretto in Italian and English on opposite page

Stuff on the marquis de Sade

The Marquis de Sade narrowly escaped being arrested at the Prison Saint-Lazare and executed on 9 Thermidor; ironically he was being held at the Maison Coignard only a few yards away from the Picpus cemetery.

The Maison Coignard at Picpus  (p/id 5038:10029)(e-text)

Acte d'accusation de 28 personnes y compris le marquis de Sade, signé par Fouquier-Tinville le 8 Thermidor An II (p/id 1075:1075) (image)
The 3-page indictment of 28 persons, of whom 6 including Sade are marked "absent" in the left margin. The names of the 22 in attendance appear on the list of the 47 who were the last condemned executed on Place du Trône on 9 thermidor (image)
untitled (p/id 1363:1363)
Letter from Constance Quesnet to Bourdon (Comité de Sûreté Générale) lobbying for the release of Sade, dated October 11, 1794. (image)
UNKNOWN (p/id 1364:1364)
[Renvoyé au Comité Révolutionnaire de la Section des Piques pour savoir leur opinion sur le citoyen Sade], (image)
UNKNOWN (p/id 1365:1365)
[?MS signed by the marquis de Sade] (image


Picpus, Walled Garden of Memory: Digital Archives
Current site overview:
"User guide" :

Amy Lifson, "Curio: Remains of the day", Humanities (NEH), March/April 2010 | Volume 31, Number 2

See also:
Picpus on the "Tombes and Sepultures" website

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