The Conciergerie in Paris, originally part of the medieval palace of the Capetian kings and later a prison which achieved a melancholy fame during the French Revolution, is now a museum and also a popular venue for concerts. Part of the building is used as a remand prison attached to the adjoining Palais de Justice.
The three High Gothic halls of the Conciergerie were built around 1300, in the reign of Philippe le Bel, and these are the only parts of the original palace that survive.
1 Quai de l'Horloge, F-75001 Paris, France
Apr 1 to Sep 30: 9:30am-6:30pmOct 1 to Mar 31: 10am-5pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), All Saints' Day - Christian (Nov 1), Remembrance Day / 1918 Armistice Day (Nov 11), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
FREE, Child 6 & under FREE
Useful tips: Free for school children in the winter.
Documentation available in foreign languages.
Guides: Guided tour included with admission.
Transit: Metro: Cite, Chatelet; Bus: 21, 24, 27, 38, 81, 85, 96.
In those days the castellan of the palace and the head of the royal household was known as the Concierge (a term which has come down in the world to mean the caretaker of a block of flats). Presumably he also had some kind of judicial authority, since the building soon became the palace prison and later a state prison. Among those confined here were the murderers of Henri IV and the Duc de Berry, Charlotte Corday (who killed Marat), Marie- Antoinette, Danton and Robespierre.
From the Quai de la Mégisserie on the opposite side of the Seine there is a good view of the Conciergerie, with its 19th century neo-Gothic facade, its three round towers and the Tour de l'Horloge (Clock Tower), in which Paris's first public clock was installed around 1370 (destroyed in 1793 and restored in the 19th century). The entrance to the Conciergerie is on the Quai de l'Horloge, to the right.
Visitors first enter the 14th century Salle des Gardes (Guard Room), with heavy vaulting borne on massive piers, the capitals of which are richly decorated (animal fights, etc.). The adjoining Salle des Gens d'Armes (Hall of the Men-at- Arms), the dining room of the palace's armed guard, is a jewel of Gothic secular architecture (by Philippe de Bels, 1285-1314). Measuring 70 by 30 meters (230 by 100 feet), it has ribbed vaulting supported on three rows of pillars.
The kitchens, dating from around 1350, were equipped to cater for banquets with two or three thousand guests and drew their supplies directly from boats on the Seine, since in those days there was no quay. The open fireplaces were large enough to roast oxen whole.
The Rue de Paris, a passage separated from the Salle des Gens d'Armes by a grating, was so called after the executioner, known as Monsieur de Paris, to whom the condemned prisoners were handed over here. The Salle des Girondins, originally the palace chapel, was used during the Revolution as a special prison for supporters of the Girondist party (opponents of the Jacobin dictatorship). In this room are displayed a variety of relics of the bloody days of the Terror, include a guillotine blade, prison regulations and a facsimile of Marie-Antoinette's last letter. The Rue de Paris continues to the prisons, including the cell in which Marie-Antoinette was confined after an unsuccessful attempt to rescue her. Here, after a trial lasting 20 hours, she awaited execution, like thousands of other prisoners of the Revolution. Visitors are also shown the cell in which Danton and later Robespierre were imprisoned before going to the guillotine.