Definitions

hôtels de ville

Place de l'Hôtel-de-Ville

The Place de Grève was, before 1802 the name of the plaza now the City Hall Plaza (place de l'Hôtel de Ville) in Paris, France. Its name is derived from the French word "grève" meaning a flat terrain covered with gravel or sand situated on the shores of the sea or on the banks of a watercourse. That place was the access to the first city harbour of Paris, a section of the sandy right bank of the Seine River.

Later on it used to be a meeting place, and also the location where unemployed people sought prospective employers; this resulted in the current French idioms of être en grève (to be on strike) and faire (la) grève (to strike, literally: "to do the strike").

Nevertheless, the principal reason why the place de Grève is remembered is that it was the site of most executions in Paris. The gallows and the pillory stood there.

The highest-profile executions took place in the Grève, including the gruesome deaths of the regicides Jacques Clément, François Ravaillac, Robert–François Damiens, and the bandit-rebel Guy Éder de La Fontenelle. In the words of Victor Hugo (the Hunchback of Notre Dame), the grève was the symbol of medieval and ancien régime justice: brutal, corrupt and inadequate.

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