HUNCHBACKED, ONE-EYED, LAME
EVERY town in the Middle Ages, and up until Louis XII⋆ every town in France, had its places of asylum. These places of asylum, amid the deluge of penal laws and barbaric jurisdictions which flooded the city, were like islands rising above the level of human justice. In a suburb there were almost as many places of asylum as of execution. It was the abuse of impunity side by side with the abuse of punishment, two evils each trying to correct one another. The king's palaces, princely residences, churches especially had the right of asylum. Sometimes a whole town which needed repopulating was temporarily made a place of refuge. Louis XI made Paris an asylum in 1467.
Once the criminal had set foot in an asylum he was sacred, but he had to take care not to leave it. One step outside the sanctuary and he fell back into the water. The wheel, the gibbet, the strappado, kept a keen watch around the place of refuge, lying ceaselessly in wait for their prey like sharks around a ship. There were cases of condemned persons growing white-haired in a cloister, on the steps of a palace, in the fields of an abbey, under a church porch; in that respect asylum was a prison like any other. It sometimes happened that a solemn decree of Parliament violated the asylum and delivered the condemned back to the executioner; but that was rare. Parliament was wary of bishops, and when it came to a clash between the two robes, the magistrate's cimarra was not evenly matched against the cassock. At times, however, as in the case of the killers of Petit-Jean, the Paris executioner, and in that of Emery Rousseau, Jean Valleret's murderer, secular justice went over the Church's head and proceeded to execute its sentence; but short of a parliamentary decree, woe betide anyone who violated a place of asylum by force of arms! It is well known how Robert de Clermont, Marshal of France,