All traces of his presence have been erased, but Louis XVI (executed on January 21, 1793, exactly 226 years ago today) spent the last days of his life in Le Marais. More precisely in the sinister dungeon of the Temple, an integral part of the Temple enclosure, built by the Templars under Saint-Louis from 1240.

Completely destroyed, it was located roughly on the site of the current Square du Temple while the robust medieval keep, impressive with its fifty meters in height, stood a few meters from the current town hall of the 3rd arrondissement, rue Eugène Spuller, where local kids play football today without realizing the extent to which their playing field is steeped in history.

The detention of the royal family in what is today a fashionable and trendy district began on August 13, 1792. A month later, Louis was separated from his family. He is installed, in relative comfort, on the second floor of the Great Tower, where he occupies four rooms with barred and blocked windows. The walls are covered in yellow fabric.

Marie-Antoinette and the children occupy the third floor where the walls are covered in green. During her trial the following year, the Austrian was the subject of odious slander: she was accused of having engaged in acts of pedophilia against her son Louis XVII during his detention at the Temple! In reality, the dignity of the royal prisoners was exemplary from start to finish.

On July 21, 1793, Louis Capet, that is to say Louis XVI, was taken to the scaffold, Place de la Révolution (today de la Concorde). In August the “Widow Capet” was transferred to the Conciergerie on the Ile de la Cité, in turn guillotined in the same place as her husband, on October 16, after an unfair trial.

The dauphin Louis XVII, suffering from tuberculosis, died at the age of 10 in his dungeon at the Temple in June 1795 after three years of captivity.

Louis XVI at the Temple Tower,  Jean-François Garneray (1755-1837)

Today, nothing remains of this tragic story. In 1808, Napoleon ordered the destruction of the Temple, in order to prevent it from becoming a place of pilgrimage for monarchists. Apart from a square and the name of a metro station, Temple, no trace of the ancient site remains.

Rue Eugène Spuller, in front of the town hall, silver paving stones mark the location of the Temple Tower. At the corner of Dupetit-Thouars and Gabriel Vicaire streets, on the surrounding wall of a nursery school, a map of the neighborhood allows you to better understand the layout of the buildings in the pre-revolutionary era. The revolutionaries and their successors have made a clean sweep of this past.

The dungeon of the Temple of Paris known as “The Big Tower”, ©Temple of Paris

Text: Ella David and Axel G.
Photos: ©Anaïs Costet
Video: ©Temple de Paris

21.01.19

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