Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Rue de l'Estrapade

Paris street names hide many stories, but few can be as gruesome as the Rue de l'Estrapade. Tucked away behind the Pantheon in the 5th arrondissement, the street today is quiet, studious and respectable, but until the 17th century it was the scene of a quite horrific form of torture - the infamous estrapade (or strappado)!

In Paris, this form of torture - which consists of tying a victim's hands behind their back then suspending them from a post by their wrists - was used mainly on the city's Protestant population. Few survived the punishment, being repeatedly hoisted back up to the top of the post then dropped down again, in full view of the baying crowds.

Shortly after the estrapade was declared illegal in France, the writer and philosopher Denis Diderot moved into a house at the number three of this street where he worked on his Encyclopédie. His encyclopedia contains a description for the words tortur and estrapade, which he points out "n'est plus d'usage, au moins en France".

Whether any traces of the torture were left in the street at the time of Diderot is not noted, but nothing survives today. Anyone walking this way now would find no descriptions of the street name, and no reminders in the road's buildings and commerces. If the passer-by then sat down to eat at the 'L'Estrapade' restaurant at number 15, they would probably not even stop to reflect after finding a plat named 'Suicide au chocolat' on the menu.

11 comments:

Owen said...

Hey Adam, it's been a while, hope all is well. Thanks for the warning about this street, I think I'll give it a wide berth... Must be a few unhappy ghosts wandering around there still...

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

What an interesting post and just the type of information that one will never find in the tour guide books - hah! I think that each country or region with any longevity will discover some gruesome details ... I'll take "death by chocolate" any day!

Mike Drips said...

Appropriate that you posted this on Halloween...

via said...

That is a hideous bit of history. It's amazing how creative people can be in coming up with ways to harm other people.

Philippa said...

I see that Space Invader has visited the spot and left an appropriately skull-like mosaic above the street sign. What a ghastly story!

Peter said...

It seems that the present century has some advantages! :-)

France Travel Info said...

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Max said...

I spent a college semester in Paris, and had French language classes on Rue de l'Estrapade every weekday.

It's so cool to learn more about the (gruesome) history of a place I went to in my daily life there.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the pic,I can see that estrapade is still alive and well but is now only practiced on cars.

Adam said...

You may be Anonymous, but that's an excellent remark!

D.D. said...

thanks for sharing :) really interesting fact about Paris :D

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