La Conciergerie was the first royal palace that was built in Paris, and is found on the Ile de la Cite island, which was originally called Palais de la Cite, which eventually became a prison.
The name Conciergerie was from the official who was appointed from the king to oversee various prison records and policing. But that’s not all, the history of the La Conciergerie is intriguing from when it was a palace through to the French Revolution and the prison it became.
Today now it is one of the more popular tourist attractions in Paris, as it was the place Marie Antoinette was held before her beheading at Place de la Concorde, also you can visit the Sainte Chapelle, which was built within the palace right back in the 1240s.
Over the years the palace has gained much damage and been destroyed so only the lower parts remain in place, but there are still many halls and parts of the building which you can visit if you plan to go there while on holiday in Paris.
The lower floors of the building were for the numerous staff and Royal Guard which amounted to around 2000 people and had medieval halls reserved for them, in fact, the floor of the medieval halls are still as they were back in the 14th century.
The Hall of Men at Arms was built in 1302 under King Philippe IV, also known as Philippe the Fair. And the hall had four ribbed vaults, lit by two twin windows. Today the hall is classed as one of the finest examples of gothic secular architecture in all of Europe, with the refectory being heated by four large fireplaces and you can still see some traces of the windows on the left wall.
Above that, The Great Ceremonial Hall was found, which held impressive receptions and were conducted by the Capetian monarchy and was served by some spiral stairs. Again that floor has unfortunately also been lost, but on the left side you can see part of a black marble table which was used and an example of the spiral staircase.
The Guardroom which was built at a similar time to the Hall of Men at Arms and was used as an antechamber to the Great Chamber where the Revolutionary Tribunal and Robespierre were to sit back during the Reign of Terror. Although sadly, the Great Chamber has also fallen since and is no longer standing, but the Guardroom is still there with its engraved stone pillars.
The kitchen Outbuilding which was built in the reign of King John II, who was also known as John the Good, was used by all of the kings staff, with food being delivered from boats via the River Seine. But again it is only the lower floors which remain.
In the 1600’s there was a fire at the prison, and again in 1776 there was another but more severe fire, where King Louis XVI modernised the prison, which was also the same prison which became used to detain many famous people during the French Revolution before facing the guillotine.
Today now you can see reconstructions of concierge offices where any prisoner names were registered, as well as seeing the Grooming room, where all prisoners were taken away from their possessions before being executed.
And on the upper floor of this historical monument you can find a list of all the prisoners which were held here at La Conciergerie as well as getting to see various cells from over the course of five centuries of prison life.
Most people have heard of Marie Antionette, and where her prison cell once stood there is now a chapel, but not just that you can also see the reconstructed cell where she was held, constantly guarded by two Gendarmes in the dungeon prior to the execution at the Place de Concorde, which is one of the famous squares in Paris.
Additionally you can also visit the Womens courtyard which was surrounded by two levels of prisoner cells and with a fountain where they could wash their clothes, which is still remaining intact even today.
There was also a stone table which prisoners would eat at, as well as the Corner of Twelve as it was known, where prisoners would have to sit in groups of twelve before they were carted off to face the guillotine.
For all the history and interesting facts to discover, you can easily visit La Conciergerie which is located on the Ile de la Cite in the middle of the River Seine, which can be accessed via bridges which connect to the island, but also via the Batobus which runs along the river and stops at various tourist attractions in Paris. Or if you wish you can use a normal bus or even use the Metro.
This monument in Paris is open every day except for national French holidays from 9:30am and through to 6pm, available for many people to visit with additional guide booklets available in a range of languages such as English, French, Spanish, German, Russian, Italian and Japanese. Or if you prefer you can pre-book guides tours for groups of people while you visit while on holiday in Paris.
And along with the Conciergerie, you can also purchase a combined ticket for the Sainte Chapelle as well, which is also rich in history, especially when you consider that it once held the religious relic of The Crown of Thorns, before you think about visiting other tourist attractions on the Ile de la Cite.