an Australian expatriate in France
Saturday, August 11, 2012
Gangsters in the grand city of Grenoble
I happened to drive to Grenoble yesterday, to purchase a few odds and ends at Ikea. Only when I was home at Gamone did I learn that the Alpine capital had been the scene, earlier in the day, of a gun battle between police and gangsters who were robbing a jewelry shop (using automatic high-caliber military weapons). Here's an amateur video that gives you an idea of the ambience of the shoot-out (in which the unfortunate jeweler got mildly wounded):
The robbers (apparently two, three or maybe four masked individuals) grabbed a female pedestrian as hostage, laid her down on the tram lines to tie up her hands, then drove off with her in their 4-wheel drive vehicle in the direction of Chambéry. In the course of the police chase, the hostage was abandoned, unharmed, near the village of Saint-Ismier (15 km north-east of Grenoble), but the robbers escaped with their haul of jewelry at the level of the Chambéry highway toll station.
In the following photo, police personnel are gathering elements at the scene of the robbery:
The jewelry shop, with a wide bronze panel above its street-level windows, is located behind the navy-blue vehicle. In the video, you may have noticed the presence of a monumental stone fountain, just across the road from the jewelry shop (which I've enclosed in a red rectangle).
This is the Three Orders fountain, erected in 1897 to celebrate local events (such as the Day of the Tiles in 1788) that had preceded the French Revolution.
The three orders (as every student of the French Revolution knows) were the clergy, the nobility and commoners. The city of Grenoble played a very prominent role in the Revolution.
The three orders are represented in this medieval depiction of the Cleric-Knight-Workman trilogy:
In the following old postcard, we see the Notre-Dame cathedral of Grenoble in the background:
Beyond the north-eastern edge of the city, delimited by the River Isère, we get a glimpse of the mountains of the Chartreuse. This, after all, was the place in Grenoble from which Bruno of Cologne set out in 1084 to set up a hermitage that would later become a great monastery.
Here's a street-level view in the same direction from in front of the jewelry shop (located on the right-hand edge of the photo, behind a white automobile):
Looking at the fountain in the opposite direction, back towards the city, we see here the splendid restored façade of the cathedral.
There's no doubt about it: Grenoble gangsters have the privilege of operating in a glorious historical setting. Once they're captured and locked up, out of harm's way, I must remember to send them a book or two (they'll have time for reading) on the history of the wonderful place where they perpetrated their criminal deed.
As a bookmark, I'll include an image of the guillotine, to remind these uncouth fellows what they would have risked, in former times, by acting as they did.