From the collection of Fernand Meyssonnier and once featured in the Museum of Justice
and Punishment in Fontaine de Vaucluse near Avignon, France, this axe head still
features its original copper museum inventory tag numbered “175″. The axe head is of
forged steel, weighing in at a hefty 5 pounds 12 ounces and bears an unidentified
stamped maker’s mark (GL?). The convex cutting edge measures 12 3/4″. Large canted
triangular socket; no shaft. Likely dates to the 17th Century. Pitted overall. While this axe
likely was not made specifically for execution, axes of this type were widely used for that
purpose. Even the famous executioner’s axe in the Tower of London, known to have
been used for the beheading of Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat, in 1747, began its life as a
timber hewing axe.
Fernand Meyssonnier (1931-2008) was an executioner in French Algeria from 1947 to
1961 and executed over 200 convicted criminals by guillotine. He is the author of the
book “An Executioner’s Tale” (French Text). His family has been linked to the
executioner’s trade since the 16th Century. This exact axe head is prominently featured on
the internet when a search is conducted on Meyssonnier.