The Conciergerie looks every inch the forbidding medieval fortress. However, much of the façade was added in the 1850s, long after Marie-Antoinette, Danton and Robespierre had been imprisoned here. The 13th-century Bonbec tower, built during the reign of St Louis, the 14th-century twin towers, César and Argent, and the Tour de l'Horloge all survive from the Capetian palace.
The visit takes you through the Salle des Gardes, the medieval kitchens with their four huge chimneys, and the Salle des Gens d'Armes, an impressive vaulted Gothic hall built between 1301 and 1315 for Philippe 'le Bel'. After the royals moved to the Louvre, the fortress became a prison under the watch of the Concierge.
The wealthy had private cells with their own furniture, which they paid for; others crowded on beds of straw. A list of Revolutionary prisoners, including a hairdresser, shows that not all victims were nobles. In Marie-Antoinette's cell, the Chapelle des Girondins, are her crucifix, some portraits and a guillotine blade.
|Venue name:||La Conciergerie|
2 boulevard du Palais
|Opening hours:||Mar-Oct 9.30am-6pm daily. Nov-Feb 9am-5pm daily|
|Price:||€7; €4.50 reductions; free under-18s (accompanied by an adult). With Sainte-Chapelle €11; €7.50 reductions. PMP|
The castle itself is incredibly impressive, given that it was originally built for Hugh Capet and his dynasty. Simple displays but well-done and appropriate given the Conciergerie's bloody history during the French Revolution and how many times it's been rebuilt and re-utilized. Well-written, educational and thoughtful written commentary provided. Not crowded on a very rainy Saturday, which was a huge plus. Recommended for history buffs, particularly students of the Revolution and the Reign of Terror.