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  • Writer's pictureWill von Behr, MA

A Brief History of the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in Paris

What is the Parc des Buttes-Chaumon?

The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is a popular public park in northeast Paris that was once the site of France’s main gallows.

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont History

If you walk along the gently sloping paths of Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, a popular recreational area for Parisian locals, you would find it difficult to believe that such a beautiful park was once the most sinister place in Paris.

From the 13th to the 17th centuries, the park was the site of the Gibbet of Montfaucon, the main gallows of the kings of France. Here hundreds of criminals (often traitors to the state) were executed by hanging, and their bodies gibbeted (left on display). In fact, bodies were even brought to this site from other gallows and left to rot here as a threat and warning to the populace.

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont lake

The park takes its name from the monts chauves (or ‘bare hills’) which once occupied the area. In the 19th century, Napoleon III commenced his renovation of Paris and his chief architect Baron Haussmann chose the unpromising site to be developed into a green space.

In order to aid the enormous undertaking, a temporary train line was installed to bring in tons of soil and, with the help of dynamite, the hill was ‘sculpted’ into the craggy shapes you see today. It took a thousand workers two years to reshape the site before the chief gardener of Paris, Jean-Pierre Barillet-Deschamps, could start laying out the pathways and planting its many trees and shrubs.

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