Located on the island of 'Île de la Cité' in Paris and flanked by the beautiful Seine River, the Conciergerie Paris is a splendid historical monument. It was originally built as a palace, 'Palais de la Cité', that was intended to be used as the official residence of the kings of France. The palace was built in the 6th century by Clovis who occupied the residence as the first French King of Rome.
Later, the palace was reconstructed to be used as a prison and a courthouse where the prisoners are tried. You will stand mesmerized as you take a tour around this colossal monument and explore all its chambers. Witness and marvel at the Gothic style architecture of the Conciergerie as well as the two medieval halls here. You can see some of the historically significant rooms of this building like the Hall of Soldiers, Guard Room and the Girondins Chapel.
The Conciergerie Paris is a testimony of the ancient Gothic style architecture that has been standing tall in pride for more than 1400 years.
It is a significant monument in the history of Paris for it stands on the same site where the Romans built their first fortress after conquering the city of Paris.
Built over the remnants of the old fort, the Conciergerie Paris was originally a palace that had been the official residence of many French kings.
The building witnessed the historical French Revolution as a jailhouse and today serves as a glorious museum filled with exhibits.
Conciergerie Paris is a historical monument that is situated on the Île de la Cité Island on the banks of river Seine. Formally known as the Palais de la Cité, the Conciergerie was originally a palace that was intended to be the royal residence for the kings of France. The Conciergerie history dates back to the 6th century when the palace was founded by the first French king, Clovis.
Hugh Capet established his council and government in the palace by the 10th century and appointed a concierge to look after the palace in his absence. From the 11th to 14th century, the palace was extended by Philip IV and it gained an important role in the administration of the kingdom. He built The Grand Hall which became the official seat of the Parliament. During the reign of Charles V, the residence of the king was moved to the Louvre Palace and the former palace underwent several restorations to build lower and middle courts.
Many prison cells were also constructed and gradually added to the lower part of the building. The concierge was given the command over the courtrooms and hence the palace was named ‘Conciergerie’. It continued to be the seat of the Paris Parliament between the 15th and 18th centuries. The Conciergerie being used to detain the prisoners and conduct judicial sessions during the French Revolution is a significant event in the Conciergerie history. The prisons were finally closed in 1934 and the Conciergerie was opened for tourists.
Once you enter the Conciergerie, you will immediately be greeted by a grand hall called the 'Hall of Soldiers.' It is a massive hall that was built between 1302 and 1313 by Enguerrand de Marigny. The wall is designed with four aisles supported by gigantic pillars that stand at a towering height of 30 foot up to the ceiling. You can also see four huge fireplaces and a notable vaulted ceiling. The kings hosted royal banquets in this hall on special occasions and on typical days the royal family dined here along with their 2000 staff.
Visit the Guard Room of Conciergerie where you can see small vaulted rooms, enormous pillars and arched windows. The Guards Room was intended to be used as a quarters for the soldiers who protected the kings during the Middle Ages. This room was also used to bring the 2900 prisoners of the 1793-94 Reign Of Terror in front of the special prosecutor Quentin Fouquier-Tinville and the Revolutionary Tribunal. The prosecutor was also arrested and imprisoned in the Conciergerie for nine months before being condemned to death on 9th May, 1795 and the Revolutionary Tribunal was also abolished later.
The original Marie Antoinette’s Cell in the Conciergerie Paris was realtered into a commemorative Expiatory Chapel along with the nearby infirmary. The renovation of the Cell was carried out from 1815 to 1830 when the monarchy regained power. The Cell that you see today is the recreation of the space used by Queen Marie Antoinette for 10 weeks before her execution. During the restoration works, the real grimy cell was turned into a wonderful oratory dedicated to her memory under the instruction of Louis XVIII. You can witness a small part from the will of the queen and a dedication to Louis XVIII on a marble altar.
The Poor Prisoner’s Cell is a portrayal of the plight of the prisoners at the Conciergerie. The prisoners’ quality of life at the Conciergerie depended on their personal wealth. Only eminent personalities who were arrested as prisoners were given individual cells. The poor prisoners, on the other hand, were put together in a single cell where they had to sleep on floors covered with straws. They had no bathrooms and no indoor plumbing in their cells and hence their rooms always smelled horribly with the stink of urine. You can imagine how gruesome their condition was at the Conciergerie.
Explore the Girondins Chapel at the Conciergerie Paris which was constructed on the site of the medieval oratory that was destroyed in the fire of 1776. The Chapel gets its name from the Girondins, who were a group of 21 deputies of the Girondin party. They were modern revolutionaries who were sentenced to death by the Jacobins for not being liberal enough. You can see the place where the Girondins were given a feast on the night before their execution on October 30, 1973. History tells that the Girondins sang the national anthem of France while they were taken to the guillotine.
The Women’s Courtyard is an open space in the Conciergerie Paris where the female prisoners were allowed to walk around, eat outside and wash their clothes in the fountain. Today, you can see a small garden blooming with flowers, arcades, and a stone table in the courtyard. You can also spot a small triangular area in the northeast corner that is separated from the Women’s Courtyard by a gate.
Location: 2 Bd du Palais, 75001 Paris, France
Timings: The Conciergerie is open from 9:30 AM to 6 PM on all days of the week with the last admission accepted till 45 minutes before closing.
Best Time to Visit The best time to visit Conciergerie is during the months of April to June and again from October to early November. This is when the climate is pleasant and favourable for sightseeing. The Conciergerie is best visited in the morning as soon as it opens or by late evening to avoid crowds.