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A little history of the Conciergerie

The façade | / CC-BY-NC-SA
Fortification French Revolution Imprisonment Conciergerie

Paris in full Middle-Ages? No, you’re not dreaming! We have here a real fortress, near the river Seine!

Conciergerie means “caretaker’s office”... the caretaker (concierge in French) was appointed by king Charles V in the 14th century, it was a very important man, who get several privileges and lived in the palais de la Cité (which housed the Parliament).

This Palais used to include the Conciergerie and the Sainte-Chapelle: it was kings of France’s main residence, since the 10th century.

But Charles V felt insecure here: and for a very good reason! His father Jean the Good was murdered here before his very eyes, in 1358... So, he decided to move in the Louvre palace: from now on, the Palais de la Cité became a jail...

Oh, come here: the salle des Gardes, fit out in 1310 by king Philip the Fair, with its nice vaults and sculpted capitals. Here, too: the beautiful Gendarmes room (65 metres long and 28 metres large), raised between 1302 and 1312 by Enguerrand de Marigny.

Outside, three round medieval towers: Caesar's tower, Silver tower, Bonbec tower (used for torture)... And that fourth one, the square tower? Well, it was the tower which housed the first public clock in the country! The current one dates back to 1585, made by Germain Pilon.

OK, we were back in medieval time. But let’s go to another time, a darker one... the Revolution. Come on, let’s enter into the cour de Mai ("May courtyard"), where prisoners used to wait carts which led them to guillotine...

The most famous prisoners were Ravaillac, Mandrin, Damien, but also during the Revolution Charlotte Corday, Danton, André Chénier, Robespierre and of course Marie-Antoinette: we still can see her cell, where she was locked between August and October 1793. Anyway, during this dark time, the fortress welcomed more than 4 000 prisoners: half of them was executed...

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!