Conciergerie

Paris, France

The Conciergerie is a former prison and part of the former royal palace, the Palais de la Cité, which consisted of the Conciergerie, Palais de Justice and the Sainte-Chapelle. Hundreds of prisoners during the French Revolution were taken from the Conciergerie to be executed on the guillotine at a number of locations around Paris.

The west part of the island was originally the site of a Merovingian palace, and was initially known as the Palais de la Cité. From the 10th to the 14th centuries it was the seat of the medieval Kings of France. Under Louis IX (Saint Louis) (1214–1270) and Philip IV (Philip the Fair) (1284–1314) the Merovingian palace was extended and more heavily fortified. Louis IX added the Sainte-Chapelle and associated galleries, while Philippe IV created the towered facade on the river side and a large hall. Both are excellent examples of French religious and secular architecture of the period.

The early Valois kings continued to improve the palace in the 14th century, but Charles V abandoned the palace in 1358, moving across the river to the Louvre. The palace continued to serve an administrative function, and still included the chancellery and French Parliament. In the king's absence, he appointed a concierge to hold command of the palace. This was a very high ranking office, and could be considered the housekeeper for the king. In 1391 part of the building was converted for use as a prison, and took its name from the ruling office. Its prisoners were a mixture of common criminals and political prisoners.

Three towers survive from the medieval Conciergerie: the Caesar Tower, named in honor of the Roman Emperors; the Silver Tower, so named for its (alleged) use as the store for the royal treasure; and the Bonbec ('good beak') Tower, which obtained its name from the torture chamber that it housed, in which victims were encouraged to 'sing'. The building was extended under later kings with France's first public clock being installed around 1370. The current clock dates from 1535. The concierge or keeper of the royal palace, gave the place its eventual name.

Despite lasting only ten months, the Reign of Terror (September 1793-July 1794) had a profound impact on France. More than 40,000 people died from execution and imprisonment, and France would not be a republic again for nearly half a century.

After the Restoration of the Bourbons in the 19th century, the Conciergerie continued to be used as a prison for high-value prisoners, most notably the future Napoleon III. Marie Antoinette's cell was converted into a chapel dedicated to her memory. The Conciergerie and Palais de Justice underwent major rebuilding in the mid-19th century, totally altering their external appearance. While the building looks like a brooding medieval fortress, this appearance actually only dates from about 1858.

The Conciergerie was decommissioned in 1914 and was opened to the public as a national historical monument. It is today a popular tourist attraction, although only a relatively small part of the building is open to public access; much of it is still used for the Paris law courts.

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Details

Founded: 13th century
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in France
Historical period: Late Capetians (France)

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Jessica Estrada (8 months ago)
Pretty Small in perspective of other museums I been to but nonetheless breathing taking. It has dedication to Marie Antoinette, a prison, and a chapel. The main floor has a food and kitchen theme of France's history. It was a beautiful musuem with a lot of French History. The gift shop is a must. Oh and not to mention it has a interactive self guided tour of the place.
Rena Correia (9 months ago)
I was a little confused at first as I thought it was a jail, and we walked into what looked like a dining hall. But they did a great job with hand-held tablets that you pointed at a code in each space, and it brought up period pictures. It was very well done!! Then, further into the building, you came upon the jail and cells used later on into its history.
Maxine (10 months ago)
Very rich history, tells the story of the building throughout time and the story of the people living in it. The histopad gave a clear image of how the property used to look. The cells were interesting to see, but the most interesting part was the kitchen and the dining hall. One thing they could add to make this a 100% for everyone is a guillotine.
Joe Trez (10 months ago)
Super cool spot, especially if you are into food and the history of gastronomy since the current exhibit is all about the history of France and its connections to the culinary world. Admission was reasonable and efficient. Outside of the main exhibit, you can see where Marie Antoinette was held before her fate was sealed. Interactive, multi lingual I pads are provided if you don't love reading all of the print on the exhibits.
David Glover (10 months ago)
The site covers the ground floor of what used to be the city palace, from medieval times, and a few neighboring structures. The original top floors no longer survive, and the rest of the building is from later periods. The impressive halls were converted to a prison during the revolution and until the early 20th century. There are "reconstructed" cells and lots of exhibits and bilingual signs (FR/EN) going over the revolution and the history of the building. There is space in the main hall that can be used for temporary exhibits, so depending when you go you may see some good exhibit. There is a well liked tablet video guide that has reconstructions of what the halls used to look like. Allocate about 1-1.5 hours to visit.
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