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Place du Bouffay and the public executions

The square | Jibi44 / CC-BY-SA
Street District French Revolution Execution Tragic destiny Gilles de Rais Marquis de Pontcallec Place du Bouffay

The executions’ square

A sinister place

We are here in Nantes’ oldest district, mentioned at the end of the 10th century, when count of Rennes Conan I, nicknamed le Tors (″the Twisted″) raised castle of Bouffay.

It became dukes of Brittany estate, later replaced by the current ducal castle.

So, fortress of Bouffay was transformed into a jail.

Bouffay square was used for executions:

  • king Louis XIII’s favourite, Chalais, accused of lèse-majesté crime.
  • 1645 ″hangings″, evoked by famous French writer Mrs. de Sévigné.
  • execution of marquis de Pontcallec, accused of conspiracy, in 1720.
  • Gilles de Rais’ execution!

The sister’s slaughter

During the French Revolution, executions of Jean-Baptiste Carrier and La Métairie sisters took place here.

The first one in 1794: he arrived in Nantes to expel the royalists and stop the refractories during wars in Vendée.

He arrested those ones and drowned them in river Loire… A real slaughter! He was guillotined on the square.

La Métairie sisters, in December 1793, were poor victim of the Revolution… 4 sisters get away from their family, executed on the gallows…

The youngest one was 17, the eldest one 28. A tradition in Nantes says their hangman committed suicide few days after their execution...

The square fitting out

In the middle of the 19th century, the jail was closed.

And yet, in the beginning of the 18th century, they started to fit out the current square. Its medieval look was erased, the city ramparts were razed.

Architect Jean-Baptiste Ceineray opened the square on river Loire and proposed one thing: to raise townhouses. Finally… only one house was built!

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!