There are still those who drive past the La Roquette Prison gates faster than the legal limit. Nearby, at the junction of the street of the same name with the Rue de la Croix Faubin, some bumps in the road might alert you to your transgression. But these are not speed bumps, but a guillotine. Or at least the remains of one. Five foundation stones, which can still be clearly seen surrounded by tarmac alongside a zebra crossing, are the bases on which stood this famous machine for decapitation.
The notches in the road not only tell you if you are driving too fast, but are a relic from the rich history of the French capital. Between 1851 and 1899, 69 people met their ends here, according to data provided by the AbsolutViajes website. These were common prisoners; upper class convicts were executed in the Place de la Concorde (which, ironically, translates as ‘Harmony Square’).
Located near Parmentier Station, in the 11th arrondissement, these remains were part of La Roquette Prison, which opened in 1830 and closed in 1974. With the exception of its main gate, today the penitentiary, once crowded with thousands of inmates, is gone and the enclosure has been turned into a public park. Until 1935 the jail housed juveniles aged between 14 and 20 and it later became a women’s prison. Although it had its very own execution facilities, in the late 19th century its guillotine was moved indoors (where it was still used regularly until 1949). The aim these days is to remind us of such terrible events, so that such punishments are never used again. Not even for breaking the speed limit.