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October 28, 2011

Rue de la Roquette

by soundlandscapes

THE RUE DE LA ROQUETTE, in the 11th arrondissement, stretches the one and a half kilometres from place de la Bastille to the cimetière du Père-Lachaise.

It boasts a relatively new catholic church, a synagogue, a decorative fountain, a theatre, many small bars and restaurants, the site of two former prisons and even evidence of Madame Guillotine.

The earliest record of the Rue de la Roquette dates from 1672 and it takes its name from the former convent, the Hosptalières de la Roquette, founded in 1636.

Incidentally, the word “Roquette” is derived from the name of a plant with yellow flowers that thrived on wasteland, which this area was until the early seventeenth-century. The word “Roquette” was adopted by the convent and subsequently by the street.

The Rue de la Roquette was also home to two prisons, La Grande Roquette, and La Petite Roquette, one on either side of the road. In November 1851, the guillotine was moved to the Rue de la Roquette outside the gates of La Grande Roquette prison and on this spot sixty-nine people were executed. Evidence of the guillotine survives today in the form of granite stones embedded in the road which formed the supports for the guillotine. The Grande Roquette prison was closed and demolished in 1900. The Petite Roquette became a women’s prison in 1920 and was finally closed in 1974.

But away from the gruesome history, capturing the sounds of the streets in Paris is almost always accompanied by the ever-present sounds of traffic. Late last Saturday afternoon I walked along the Rue de la Roquette and, for once, I found that the traffic rumbling over this pavé street was more in harmony with the other sounds of the street than is usual. It’s almost as though, for once, the traffic takes centre stage rather than being a back-stage distraction.

The sounds in the Rue de la Roquette:

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