La Conciergerie | Attraction Guides | History Hit

La Conciergerie

Paris, Ile-de-France, France

Luke Tomes

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About La Conciergerie

La Conciergerie is a building in Paris, France, located on the west of the Île de la Cité, formerly a prison but presently used mostly for law courts. It was part of the former royal palace, the Palais de la Cité, which consisted of La Conciergerie, Palais de Justice and the Sainte-Chapelle.

La Conciergerie history

La Conciergerie is located on an important site which once formed the seat of the city’s Roman leaders during their occupation of Gaul.

The building itself originally formed part of thirteenth century Palais de Justice, the royal palace built by King Philip IV. It served this role until the 1350’s, when the French royals moved to the Louvre.

As it ceased being used as a royal residence, La Conciergerie became the site where judicial functions were carried out, a purpose which parts of the palace still fulfil today.

From 1391, La Conciergerie’s judicial function took on a different character as it was transformed into a prison. Thus it remained for centuries, playing its sinister role during the French Revolution as the home of the ominous Revolutionary Tribunal which sent thousands of prisoners to the guillotine.

In the course of the Revolution, La Conciergerie held over a thousand prisoners at any given time. Some of the most famous inmates at La Conciergerie included Francois Ravaillac, the assassin of King Henri IV, imprisoned there in 1610, revolutionaries Georges Danton and Maximilien Robespierre, and, most prominently, Queen Marie Antoinette. Each was then executed.

After the Restoration of the Bourbons during 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 during the mid-19th century, drastically altering their external appearance. While the building looks like a brooding medieval fortress, this appearance actually only dates from about 1858.

La Conciergerie today

Visitors to La Conciergerie can enjoy both its impressive medieval architecture, such as its large Hall of the Men at Arms and its history, both royal and as an instrument of punishment. Its original torture chambers can still be viewed.

A remade version of Marie Antoinette’s cell, a blade from the guillotine, and a list of names of those executed are available to look at inside. The massive Hall of the Guards is a reminder of the building’s medieval past. La Conciergerie is the oldest remaining part of the Île de la cité originally built as the Merovingian palace.

Surprisingly only a small part of La Conciergerie is open to the public as the surrounding areas of the building are still used today by the Paris court system.

Getting to La Conciergerie

La Conciergerie is located on the island called Ile de la Cite in the middle of the River Seine, and there are bridges that connect the island with the left bank of Paris and the right bank of Paris.

You can also reach La Conciergerie via different means of transport in Paris such as the Batobus (bus on water) that stops at different sections of the River Seine close to famous tourist attractions in Paris.

Normal Paris buses will also get you to the Ile de la Cite and these are vial lines 21, 24, 27, 38, 58, 81 and 85, you can also access La Conciergerie and the Sainte Chapelle via the Metro on lines 1, 4, 7 and 11 or via the RER on lines B and C.

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