Maps, The Marais

The Last Vestige of the Force Prison

24 rue Pavée Paris 75004

I think we can all safely say that finding one’s self in a medieval prison would not be ideal (unless you were one of the 7 lucky released inhabitants of the Bastille prison on the 14th of July 1789) but the Force prison was truly the exception for its level of disease and decay. The 18th century prison was described by Victor Hugo as being so rotted that “the ceilings had to be covered in wood so that falling stones would not kill prisoners in their beds” (Les Miserables). Charles Dickens depicted the Force as “a gloomy prison, dark and filthy, and with a horrible smell” (A Tale of Two Cities).

Originally a 16th century palace King Louis IX’s brother, the building would be converted to become a model prison where criminals went to be rehabilitated, (by the order of Louis XVI himself in 1780). The prison was separated in two parts; The Petite Force for women, and the Grand Force for men.

However, when the Revolution came along in 1789, the prison quickly became overpopulated and conditions went downhill faster than a fart in the wind. In early September 1792; 408 prisoners were examined for crimes against France. About 169 of them would be executed, including the savagely murdered Princess of Lamballe- BFF of Marie Antoinette, which you can read about in the attached post below if you have the stomach for it.

The Force prison was destroyed in 1845, and only a single wall of the Petite Force remains, just next to the History of Paris library (Hotel Lamoignon).

The prison itself occupied the space that Is today between Rue du Roi Sicile, Rue Pavée, and Rue Malheur (see the blue line in the photo, this street did not exist at the time of the prison).

image from

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