Rue de l’Estrapade

Arrondissement 5

Number 3

A print from 1633 of the torture used commonly across Europe the strappado (estrapade in French) by the medieval inquisition and several governments from the 12th to the 18th centuries.

The street finally took its current name in 1881. It roughly translates as ‘the street of torture’. The strappado is where the victim has their hands tied behind their back and they are dropped from a height, sometimes with weights added to the body to increase the pain. In English the word ‘estrapade’ has come to mean where a horse rears and plunges and kicks to try and unseat its rider. This is because it was the site of an ancient deep ditch dug outside Paris’ oldest medieval Wall that was constructed on Philippe Auguste’s order from 1190 to 1215.

Hazan (IOP) describes the Wall’s left-bank route as a ‘semi-eclipse that essentially encompasses the Latin Quarter. Starting at the Seine, where the Institute of France now stands, going up the rue Mazarine to the Porte de Buci, the old wall went along rue (formerly Fossés-) Monsieur-le-Prince up to the top of the Montagne Saint-Geneviève (now the Panthéon) where ‘the names of streets and squares still perpetuate its memory: Fossés-Saint-Jacques, Estrapade, Contrescarpe. It then descended towards the Seine in a straight line, following the rue des Fossés-Saint-Victor (now Cardinal-Lemoine) and rue des Fossés-Saint-Bernard, reaching the river at the tower of La Tournelle.’

On June 24 1848, the workers’ barricade across the rue de l’Estrapade could be taken only after the Panthéon had been captured. To do this canons were placed in the rue Soufflot. Then soldiers who had got through to the square through a backdoor in the law school entered the Panthéon, where they took prisoners before executing them and then attacking and overwhelming the rue de l’Estrapade barricade.

Lenin and Krupskaya stayed here in 1902. The plaque on the wall in the photo isn’t about them.

Number 3, five minutes’ walk to the rue des Écoles where Lenin was lecturing, was where he and Krupskaya were put up by another Russian exile in 1902. The plaque on the wall confirms that Denis Diderot lived at the same address from 1747 to 1754 while he was publishing his enlightenment Encylopedia, whose aim was ‘change the way people think‘.


Rue de la Harpe

Arrondissement 5

Numbers 6, 11, (63, 85, 89)

During his final years Paul Verlaine lived in the Hotel de la Harpe at No 6, shown here as the mauve building on the right.

Before the construction of the boulevards Saint-Germain and Saint-Michel, the 13th century narrow road went all the way to the southern gates of Paris (today’s Place Edmond-Rostand). It was named after a café sign of a harp.

Towards the end of his life the poet elected ‘Prince of Poets’ by the French literary world, Paul Verlaine (1844-1896), lived in poverty at the Hôtel de la Harpe at No. 6.

In the remaining old part of the street at No. 11, Philippe Buonarroti often visited his editor in 1830 as they prepared the publication of Babeuf’s political legacy.

No 11 was a very old bookshop and printworks, where Philippe Buonarroti printed his influential works on Babeuf in 1830. Blanqui lived at No. 85 rue de la Harpe while fighting in the 1830 Revolution. Much earlier, in 1746, another printworks, Le Breton, at No. 16, printed the first volume of Diderot’s Encyclopedia.

Gustave Courbet‘s first Paris studio was at No. 89 in 1842, and was where he became friendly with Proudhon.

The 1848 Jacobin club used to meet at 63 rue de la Harpe during the 1848 revolution.