The revolting work of the guillotine had become generally accepted as one of the features of the new order over the past 13 months…For the residents of the fashionable neighborhood bordering the elegant ex-Place Louis XV, there was grave concern about the quantity of blood accumulating there…[A]s the months passed, the soil around the scaffold had become so saturated that those walking over it left brownish footprints on adjoining sidewalks…

Equally offensive to the inhabitants of that elegant district of Paris was the reddish trail left each evening by the red-painted cart transporting the decapitated bodies to the common burial pit in a cemetery near the Church of the Madeleine. But the worst offense was the indescribable putrefying smell emanating at all hours of the day and night from the scaffold site. Before the guillotine’s June 8 removal the intense heat of early June had already begun to accentuate it.

The state of what so shortly before had been western Europe’s most luminous Christian city now shocked the outside world. In the heart of the capital city of St. Louis, saved and protected by the holy prayers of St. Genevieve, there reigned the stench of putrefying human blood. It spoke far more eloquently of the profound disorder unleashed by the new order than did rites of communion at the Place de la Bastille or cults to freedom martyrs interred in the Pantheon and then removed.

William Bush, To Quell the Terror: The True Story of the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne (1999)


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