Advertisement

Conciergerie

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Palais_de_justice_1858.jpg
The Palais de Justice, the Conciergerie and the Tour de l'Horloge, after 1858 - by Adrien Dauzats

The Conciergerie is a former prison in Paris, located on the west of the Île de la Cité, near the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. It is part of the larger complex known as the Palais de Justice, which is still used for judicial purposes.

The medieval Conciergerie

The Conciergerie was originally a part of the palace of King Philip IV (Philip the Fair) (1284-1314). It was a section of the palace precinct controlled by a person of high degree, the concierge or keeper of the royal palace. Its ground floor levels, built in Philip's reign, are dominated by the Guardroom and the Hall of Men-at-arms, which are exceptional examples of medieval secular architecture. The latter is particularly striking: 209 feet long, 90 feet wide and 28 feet high, it was used as a dining-room for the 2,000 staff who worked in the palace. It was heated with four large fireplaces and lit by many windows, now blocked up. It was also used for royal banquets and judicial proceedings. The neighboring Guardroom was used as an antechamber to the Great Hall immediately above, where the king held his lit de justice (a session of parliament in the king's presence).

Missing image
Conciergerie_Paris_DSC00684.jpg
View from the river Seine. Compare the part where pollution has been cleaned (right) to the part where it hasn't yet been (left).

The royal family abandoned the palace in 1358, moving across the river to the Louvre. In 1391 the building was converted for use as a prison. Its prisoners were a mixture of common criminals and political prisoners. In common with other prisons of the time, the treatment of prisoners was very dependent on their wealth, status and connections. The very wealthy or influential usually got their own cells with a bed, desk and materials for reading and writing. Less well-off prisoners could afford to pay for simply-furnished cells called pistoles, which would be equipped with a rough bed and perhaps a table. The poorest, known as the pailleux from the hay (paille) that they slept on, would be confined to dark, damp, vermin-infested cells called oubliettes (literally "forgotten places"). In keeping with the name, they were left to die in conditions that were ideal for the plague and other infectious diseases which were rife in the insanitary conditions of the prison.

Three towers survive from the medieval Conciergerie: the Caesar Tower, named in honour of the Roman emperors; the Silver Tower, so named for its (alleged) use as the store for the royal treasure; and the Bonbec ("good beak") Tower, which obtained its name from the torture chamber that it housed, in which victims were encouraged to "sing". The building was extended under later kings with France's first public clock being installed around 1370. The current clock dates from 1535.

The Conciergerie and the French Revolution

Missing image
Hall_of_men_at_arms.jpg
The Hall of the Men-at-Arms, one of the largest surviving medieval parts of the Conciergerie

The Conciergerie thus already had an unpleasant reputation before it became internationally infamous as the "antechamber to the guillotine" during the Reign of Terror, the bloodiest phase of the French Revolution. It housed the Revolutionary Tribunal as well as up to 1,200 male and female prisoners at a time. The Tribunal sat in the Great Hall between 2 April 1793 and 31 May 1795 and sent nearly 2,600 prisoners to the guillotine. Its rules were simple. Only two outcomes existed - a declaration of innocence or a death sentence - and in nine cases out of ten, the latter was chosen. The most famous prisoners (and victims) included Queen Marie Antoinette, the poet André Chénier, Charlotte Corday and the Girondins, who were condemned by Georges Danton, who was in turn condemned by Robespierre, who was himself condemned and executed in a final bout of bloodletting. En route to the tumbrils, the victims walked through the Salle Saint-Louis, (Saint Louis Room), which acquired the nickname of the "Salle des Perdus", the Room of the Doomed.

After the Restoration of the Bourbons in the 19th century, the Conciergerie continued to be used as a prison for high-value prisoners - most notably the future Napoleon III. Marie Antoinette's cell was converted into a chapel dedicated to her memory. The Conciergerie and Palais de Justice underwent major rebuilding in the mid-19th century, totally altering their external appearance. While the building looks like a brooding medieval fortress, this appearance actually only dates from about 1858.

The Conciergerie was decommissioned in 1914 and was opened to the public as a national historical monument. It is today a popular tourist attraction, although only a relatively small part of the building is open to public access - much of it is still used for the Paris law courts.fr:Conciergerie pl:Conciergerie

Navigation

Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Art)
    • Architecture (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Architecture)
    • Cultures (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Cultures)
    • Music (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Music)
    • Musical Instruments (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/List_of_musical_instruments)
  • Biographies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies)
  • Clipart (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Clipart)
  • Geography (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Geography)
    • Countries of the World (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Countries)
    • Maps (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Maps)
    • Flags (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Flags)
    • Continents (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Continents)
  • History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History)
    • Ancient Civilizations (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Ancient_Civilizations)
    • Industrial Revolution (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Industrial_Revolution)
    • Middle Ages (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Middle_Ages)
    • Prehistory (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Prehistory)
    • Renaissance (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Renaissance)
    • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
    • United States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/United_States)
    • Wars (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Wars)
    • World History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History_of_the_world)
  • Human Body (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Human_Body)
  • Mathematics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Mathematics)
  • Reference (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Reference)
  • Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Science)
    • Animals (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Animals)
    • Aviation (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Aviation)
    • Dinosaurs (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Dinosaurs)
    • Earth (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Earth)
    • Inventions (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Inventions)
    • Physical Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Physical_Science)
    • Plants (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Plants)
    • Scientists (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Scientists)
  • Social Studies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Social_Studies)
    • Anthropology (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Anthropology)
    • Economics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Economics)
    • Government (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Government)
    • Religion (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Religion)
    • Holidays (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Holidays)
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Solar_System)
    • Planets (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Planets)
  • Sports (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Sports)
  • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
  • Weather (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Weather)
  • US States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/US_States)

Information

  • Home Page (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php)
  • Contact Us (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Contactus)

  • Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
Toolbox
Personal tools