Two gay men who were burned alive in 1750 in Paris as punishment for the “crime” of homosexuality were honored over the weekend with the unveiling of a plaque marking the spot on the city’s popular Rue Montorgueil market street where the couple was arrested.
Jean Diot, a 40-year-old domestic employee, and Bruno Lenoir, a 20-year-old shoemaker, were arrested on Jan. 3, 1750, when police caught them engaging in consensual sex in public. Both men were imprisoned for six months, and after a trial in which prosecutors stated they wished to make a public example of the pair to discourage others from engaging in “criminal sodomy” they were executed on July 6, 1750, by being burned at the stake at the Place de Greve, now the Place de l’Hotel de Ville–the site of Paris’s City Hall.
Their executions marked the last time gay men or lesbians were sentenced to death in France due to their sexual orientation. In 1791, the nation’s penal code (under the direction of Napoleon) was revised to remove sodomy as criminal activity.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo presided over the plaque-unveiling ceremony on Saturday, Oct 18. Other city officials on hand at the dedication ceremony included Catherine Vieu-Charier and Helene Bidard, assistant mayors of Paris; Jacques Boutault, mayor of Paris’s 2nd Arrondissement; and Ian Brossant, assistant mayor of the 2nd Arrondissement. Several leaders of LGBT rights organizations also were on hand, as was a gay chorale group that performed for the crowd.
The plaque (translated to English) reads, “January 4, 1750. Rue Montorgueil between Rue Saint-Sauveur and the former Rue Beaurepaire where Brune Lenoir and Jean Dio were arrested and sentenced for homosexuality. They were burned at the take on July 6, 1750. This was the last execution for homosexuality in France.”
The memorial plaque is inset into the cobblestone street at the corner of Rue Montorgueil and Rue Bachaumont, just across from the popular La Fermette fromagerie.