The Chambre Ardente
MoD’s Chambre Ardente is a small hermeneutically-sealed circular room. The wall is lined with matches, their square ends packed together so their ready red tips all point out parallel to the floor. Large metal Zippos hang from fine chains, each primed and regularly checked. The room’s wall stretches up far into the darkness, domed by the giant inverted nozzle of a fire-thrower. Around the lip of the nozzle, deployed at regular intervals, is a series of closed earthen vessels containing Greek Fire. Over each vessel is suspended a small hammer, held poised by a fine thread. These threads are gathered together, twisted into a thin cord that dangles down to the floor alongside a large desk and an extremely comfortable chair. On the opposite side of the desk another chair, this one small and hard, is positioned. A large angle-poise arc-lamp is pointed at it, its hard beam pining the chair to the black sandpaper floor and providing the only illumination in the room apart from a hooded candle on the desk.
This is the chamber in which the objects, texts and individuals deemed unnecessary by MoD are interrogated and, perhaps, dispatched.
The Chambre Ardente gets its name from the ‘Darkened Court’ of the Ancient Regime. Before the Revolution, certain offences in France were tried in a court from which daylight was excluded, and the only light admitted was by torches. These inquisitorial courts were devised by Cardinal Lorraine. The first was held in the reign of François I., for trying heretics – in 1530 it was the Hugonauts. Brinvilliers and his associates were tried in a darkened court in 1680. Another was held in 1716, during the regency. A When judges were ashamed to be seen, prisoners could not expect much leniency.