Rue du Cherche-Midi

Arrondissement 6

Numbers: 38, 39, 44, 47, 91

Named in 1832 after a shop sign showing a painted medieval sun dial with people looking for midday at 2 pm in the afternoon, the road brought together three shorter streets.

The Cherche-Midi military prison at No. 38 had originally been a monastery whose religious community was suppressed in 1790. It then became a factory making army uniforms and then a supply depot. It was largely demolished in 1847 although the trials of many of those arrested in the workers’ uprising of June 1848 took place there.

A new prison with 200 individual cells was built there in 1853. Prisoners worked in silence during the day and were isolated in their cells at night.

Several Communard fighters were slaughtered there on May 30 1871.

This was also the location of the official degradation of Captain Alfred Dreyfus on 24 December 1894.

On 22 September 1939 a demonstration outside the prison took place in support of the 16 court-martialed and jailed conscientious objectors, who refused to fight in the French army. On November 11 1940 the students arrested at the Armistice Day demonstration at the Place de l’Étoile were imprisoned here by the Germans who had taken the prison over.

In a bad state of repairs it stopped being used for military prisoners in 1947, after which it was only used for military tribunals.

On September 5 1960 the court martial took place here of six Algerian FLN fighters and 18 members of the Jeanson French support network.

The prison was finally demolished in 1966 and the Human Sciences building finished in 1970, which it now shares with the School for Advanced Studies in Social Science.

After his marriage to Adèle Foucher, Victor Hugo lived at No. 39 opposite the prison with his in-laws from 1822 to 1824. This was just up the road from No. 44, where Hugo had lived as a child in 1813-1814.

Paul Lafargue and Laura Marx moved into No. 47 on December 1 1868 soon after their marriage. Karl spent six days with them in July 1869 under the false identity of Alan Williams. This address was where the couple committed suicide together in 1911.

When she arrived in Paris in 1861 from Brittany, Nathalie Le Mel worked at the Angel Entreprise at No. 91. She was one of the first women to join the International Workingmen’s Association.

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