Site of La Morgue de Paris in Paris, France

Square de l’Île-de-France, a small public park at the very end of Île de la Cité, might seem to be a peaceful green plot of land now, but it hides a much darker and morbid history. The site was home to one of the first Paris morgues, which not only served as the place to keep unidentified bodies but also as a peculiar exhibition open to the public.

The original building, which opened in 1804, was situated a little bit further on the Île de la Cité, but the city had to expand the morgue and move it to the new location at Quai de l’Archevêché in 1868. Here, just next to the river where a lot of the deceased were found, the morgue would display corpses on marble tables behind a large window, in the hope of the public identifying as many dead bodies as possible. The place soon turned out to attract tourists rather than concerned citizens, with reportedly as many as 40,000 people a day trying to peek at the morbid display.

Today the park is a site of the Deportation Martyrs Memorial and serves as a green space with benches where tourists and locals can also catch a breath and relax. Only a small plaque mentions the existence of the morgue, in one single sentence.

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