One of the things that fascinate us all while exploring Paris is the rich history of the place. Some of the places in Paris still haunt the visitors with the events of the past such as its feared catacombs and execution areas like the Place de la Concorde. One such place, La Conciergerie still resonates with the past glories and dark sides of the French Revolution and is something that should not be missed out during your Paris tours. It served as a prison in the royal palace and housed those misfortunate convicts before being guillotined during the Reign of Terror.
A Little History
A part of the Palais de la Cite, the Conciergerie was used initially used to house the administrative offices of the Kingdom. The place was converted into a prison in 1391 for housing both political and common prisoners. During the French Revolution, thousands of prisoners were executed using the guillotine at the Place de la Concorde. La Conciergerie also held the prisoners who spend their final days before they were executed.
The most prominent among them was Marie Antoinette the last queen of France who was beheaded with the guillotine on October 16, 1793. The Conciergerie thus earned a fearsome reputation and several thousands were cramped inside its dark prisons before they were beheaded. Some perished inside its walls even before making it to the guillotine. After the revolution, La Conciergerie also continued to function as a prison and held some important prisoners such as Napoleon III.
Inside the Conciergerie
The dark and gloomy interiors of the Conciergerie are something not to be missed as it can literally take you back to the days of the French aristocracy and the revolutionary times. The dungeons and prison cells that housed the prisoners is its major attraction. One of the most prominent among them is the recreated prison cell where Marie-Antoinette spent her last days. It features a veiled mannequin figure of Marie-Antoinette along with a soldier guarding her.
These recreated cells, executioner’s walkway, prisoners’ gallery, and torture chambers are sure to induce a kind of sympathy and pain among the visitors. The courtyards where Marie-Antoinette spent her last remaining days are the other major attraction. Inside the Conciergerie, an audio-visual presentation is also provided that give you an idea about prison life. Besides, the interiors of La Conciergerie are adorned with gothic architecture and have several other exhibits like the guillotine blade, keys, and shackles.
Visiting the Conciergerie
La Conciergerie is located at a short distance from the Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Saint-Chappelle church. It is open daily and the normal entrance fee is €9 for adults, although this can vary based on the seasons. You can easily reach the Conciergerie using the Metro, alight at RER stations or the underground stop of Cite on the Metro Line 4.