La Conciergerie in Paris
La Conciergerie was the very first royal palace in Paris that was built on the Ile de la Cite island in the River Seine and was initially called the Palais de la Cite and then eventually it became a prison.
The name Conciergerie came from the official that was appointed by the king to oversee policing and prison records and the history of La Conciergerie from when it was a palace right through to the French Revolution and beyond, with some absolutely fascinating facts and architecture.
Today, this has become one of the famous tourist attractions and monuments in Paris, due to being where Marie-Antoinette was detained prior to her beheading at the Place de la Concorde in Paris, plus you can also visit the Sainte Chapelle that was built within the palace way back in the 1240s.
About La Conciergerie in Paris
Even though lots of the palace has been destroyed over the years, and unfortunately only the lower parts remain, there are still many different halls and parts of La Conciergerie that you can visit whilst you are on holiday in Paris.
Let us start with the medieval halls
Around 2000 people including the Royal Guard and numerous staff who worked for the king and his family had the lower parts of the medieval halls reserved for them. And the floor of the medieval halls is still as it was back in the 14th century, even though the creation of embankments on the Ile de La Cite island in the 19th century raised the levels of most other buildings.
The Hall of Men at Arms was built from 1302 under King Philippe IV, who was born at the Royal Chateau Fontainebleau and is also known as Philippe the Fair, and this hall consisted of four ribbed vaults generous lit by twin windows. And today is classed as one of the finest examples of gothic secular architecture in Europe this refectory was heated by four large fireplaces, and you can still get to see traces of the twin windows on the left wall.
The Great Ceremonial Hall was above this, where elaborate receptions were conducted by the Capetian monarchy, which used to be served via spiral staircases from the refectory, yet unfortunately, this upper floor has disappeared. However, again on the left hand wall there is a fragment of the black marble table that was used and you can also see an example of the spiral staircase.
The Guardroom was built at the similar time to the Hall of Men at Arms and was used as an antechamber to the Great Chamber, which is where the Revolutionary Tribunal and Robespierre sat back in the days of the Reign of Terror. However, unfortunately, the Great Chamber part of La Conciergerie is no longer standing either, but the Guardroom is still there with its engrave stone pillars.
The Kitchen Outbuilding was actually built during the reign of King John II, known as John the Good and was used by the kings staff, with the food being delivery directly to the kitchens via boat on the River Seine, but again, it is only the lower levels of the kitchen that still remain.
The Rue de Paris at La Conciergerie used to be part of the Hall of Men at Arms, but was seperated and raised in the 15th century and it got its name you will hear today through the executioner during the French Revolution.
Now on to the revolutionary halls of La Conciergerie
There was a fire at La Conciergerie back in the 1600s and then another more severe one in 1776 and King Louis XVI modernised the prison,,and it was this prison that was used during the French Revolution and became famous for the atrocities and the famous people that were detained here prior to facing the guillotine.
So today you can get to see reconstructions of the clerks and concierge offices along with the room where the prisoners names were registered. There is also the Grooming room, which is where prisoners were stripped of all their possessions before being executed.
On the upper floor there is a list of the prisoners who were held at La Conciergerie prison during the reign of Terror and you can also get to see the reconstructions of various cells from the different classes of prisoner and there are rooms that have objects and panels that depict over five centuries of prison life.
Now back in the year 1791, there were some radical individuals that formed a party and these people were called Girondins and in the place where the kings used to go for prayer, which was a Medieval Oratory, you can get to see the Girondins Chapel where 21 Girondins feasted prior to their execution in October 1793.
Virtually everyone has heard of Marie-Antionette and in 1815 there was a chapel built called the Marie-Antionette chapel, and this was built on the exact spot where her prison cell had stood at La Conciergerie.
But today you can also get to see the reconstructed cell where she was permanently guarded by two Gendarmes and this was reconstructed in a part of the original dungeon where Marie-Antoinette was held prior to her beheading at the Place de la Concorde square.
In addition to these, you can also get to see the Womens courtyard, which was surrounded by two floors of prisoners cells and the fountain where they washed their clothes still remains in tact today.
There is also a stone table where they ate and the Corner of Twelve as it was known, which is where condemned prisoners had to wait in groups of twelve, before a cart would come and take them off to face the guillotine.
Visiting La Conciergerie
As we have mentioned before, 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, which is like a 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.
This incredible monument in Paris is open every day of the year except for all National French Holidays like 1st January, 1st May and 25th December. It opens at 9.30am and closes at 6pm, but the last entry is 45 minutes prior to closing.
The cost for entry to La Conciergerie is €8.50, however children under the age of 18 are free providing they are accompanied by an adult, plus disabled visitors along with their escort also have free admission.
However, when you are on holiday in Paris and would like to visit a few different monuments, then you will be pleased to know that along with the rich history of La Conciergerie, you can get to visit the Sainte Chapelle on a combined ticket, which is a cost of €12.50, but again this free for people under 18 or the disabled.
You can have an unaccompanied visit that includes a guide booklet, which is available in different languages including French, English, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Japanese.
However, guided visits in French, English and Spanish are also available, but these are for groups and are only available upon prior reservation by telephone or fax.