Named in 1893 after Léon Gambetta, a republican who was elected for Belleville in 1869 and who was in Spain during the repression of the 1871 Paris Commune, in 1870 it had previously been called the Place des Pyrénées and during the Commune, the Place de Puebla. On March 15 the canons in the Place des Vosges were moved there, and the square saw violent fighting during the ‘Bloody week’ of the Commune.
The Town Hall at No. 6 was the first in Paris to have a Communard elected to its Municipal Council before the June 21 1880 amnesty was announced. The cobbler, Alexis Trinquet, who had made an unsuccessful escape bid from exile in New Caledonia with Jean Allemane on November 23 1876, was elected on June 20 1880.
Jean Allemane married the seamstress, Adèle Quénot, ten years younger than him with whom they already had two children, at the Town Hall on May 15 1880, one week after he was finally amnestied.
The Square is currently (from 2019) undergoing a major transformation. Unfortunately it is only designed to increase the space for pedestrians by 60%, unlike some of the other six squares being redesigned. And the old Wallace Fountain that features in early 20th century photographs will not be restored.
Opened in 1804 this world famous cemetery gets its name from Louis XIV’s Jesuit priest confessor from 1675 to 1709, François d’Aix de La Chaize. This was the period when the Sun King, having decided that anyone who was not a Catholic was the ‘enemy within’, revoked the 1598 Edict of Nantes that had tolerated protestants. While discriminatory measures took off from 1661, persecutions intensified from 1679 leading up to the 1685 revocation in the Edict of Fontainebleau. One per cent of the population, some 200,000 Huguenots were then forced out of France.
In 1780, finally, all cemeteries within the city walls were closed. As Consul Napoleon decreed that cemeteries should be open to all faiths and to the poor as well as the rich. In 1803 the land on the hill was acquired by the Prefect of the Seine department and the design of the cemetery entrusted to Alexandre-Theodore Brongiart.
It’s a big haul walking up from the boulevard de Belleville to the Boys’ Elementary School (now mixed) where Albert Treint taught from 1919 to September 1921. He was then dismissed for his political activities as a leader of the new French Communist Party.
His victimisation was revoked in 1936 when Jean Zay became Minister of Education in the Popular Front government. Three years later, however, Treint was dismissed again when the Daladier government passed a law interning all those considered a threat to the security of the state.
Hazan (IOP) quotes the Communard historian Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray as writing that the last of the 1871 Commune barricades to hold out on May 28 1871 was across the Rue Ramponeau at numbers 40-42, rising above the Rue de Belleville (then Rue de Paris), and within a kilometre of the Père-Lachaise cemetery where the last Communards were gunned down.