Well today was a stay at home day and eat your storm Chips day. Yes we got 30 cm of snow and blowing winds, so this morning around 7am it was announced that everything was shutting down for the day. There was no cars to be seen on the street and one or two people occasionally walking a dog. The City has not really cleaned anything yet so driving is difficult at best and the sidewalks have disappeared. So it is best to stay at home. Here is a photo of Queen street, a block from the water, a veritable winter wonderland.
Our two little ones Nicky and Nora did not want to go out at all. Though Nora loves to sample freshly fallen snow. I should ask her what it taste like.
There is a site on the Internet I have been following for some time, it is in French and comes from France, the author Marie-Christine Pénin does a lot of research on the sepulture of famous people and churches, cemeteries and catacombs which may contain the tomb of people who have made a mark in time. Her work takes her back often some 600 years or in some cases more recently in the last 90 years.
Reading her blog is fascinating, she researches all kinds of people, from Kings to actresses and even murderers. She gives background on the life of the person and how they died and were they are buried, in many cases the tombs may have disappeared because of urban renewal, demolition of churches or closing of cemeteries.
What I did not know was the amount of attacks on the dead perpetrated by the French Revolution or what Simon Schama like to call it, the French Civil War in his book Citizens.
Often Marie-Christine Pénin will write about a Paris neighbourhood and how it has changed in the last 400 years. The Paris of today has little to do with the Paris of pre-1870. She provides maps and the old former name of streets. Photos also of what the street or buildings look like today. It is fascinating to discover how the dead fared in the years after they were buried. Today she was writing about the famous church of La Madeleine in Paris, many thousand of tourist visit it each year. She started by telling us that the parish of Marie-Madeleine hence La Madeleine has existed since the year 800 AD. The current church we see is rather new and gave us a brief history of its construction and the people involved. But in that story she introduces the story of the Revolution and the guillotine and where the bodies of the victims of the summary revolutionary justice were buried.
There use to be 3 cemeteries in and around La Madeleine, during the revolution specifically 1792-1794 the years of La terreur (the terror) thousands of people from all walks of life were executed, simply being suspected of some kind of wrong doing and off with your head. The grave diggers could not keep up with the mass arrivals of dead bodies and heads to be buried, it was mayhem and the resident of the neighbourhood would complain of the terrible odour coming from the grave site, no coffins were used and bodies were quickly disposed of.
Each person who was guillotine was transported in a cart pele mele with other unfortunates. Once at the grave site, corpses would be unloaded, any personal object was taken and entered in a ledger to be given to a caretaker. Bodies were stripped naked and tossed into a common grave, heads and all. After the revolution, in 1815 at the Restoration of the Monarchy under Louis XVIII there was a search for missing members of the French Royal Family. Louis XVI and his wife Marie-Antoinette were found easily, they had been buried in a designated spot in one of the cemeteries and today you can see the Chapelle expiatoire built on the site of their original graves. However Madame Elizabeth, the sister of Louis XVI was executed in 1794 and buried in a common grave with hundreds of others, her body was never found.
Kings of France and Princes and Princesses and great Officers of the Kingdom were buried at Cathedrale of Saint-Denis. At the revolution mobs descended on the church and violated the tombs dragging the remains of the Kings and others and dumping the corpses into a common pit on the side of the Church. At the restoration in 1815 much work was done to recover the royal remains and place them back inside the church. A new mausoleum was erected for Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. They are now buried in St-Denis. Another body that was never found was that of Philippe Duc d’Orléans known during the revolution as Philippe Egalité, he was the cousin of Louis XVI.
Philippe had a huge grudge against the King and voted at the trial for his execution, surprising Robespierre and others. However just to make sure 48 hours later a second vote was taken, the revolutionaries were not so sure they wanted to execute Louis who was not a bad fellow just a bumbler, again Philippe voted the death of his cousin. He himself was arrested later and executed buried in a common pit a few steps from his unfortunate cousin Louis and sister-in-law Marie-Antoinette.
If you are interested by French history here is the site link http://www.tombes-sepultures.com/crbst_52.html The site is in French.