Tuesday, 22 July 2008

La Conciergerie

When you wander along the Seine in Paris you'll pass one impressive building after the other. One that especially is outstanding is "la Conciergerie"; probably most well known as being the prison where Marie-Antoinette was kept prisoner while awaiting beheading. The place is part of a large series of buildings known as "Palais de Justice", where juridictional functions still take place.

The place was originally a Roman-Gallic fortress which over the years was expanded and later became the seat for the kings and their governments. The building is unique and clearly shows traits of it's history. It is a prime example on Gothic architecture. So if you're interested in history and old buildings, then you'll have to drop the place a visit.

There are four interesting locations to visit in "la Conciergerie". The first is the "Salle des gens d'armes", the room of the armed men (where the French word for policeman, "gendarme" comes from). The great hall was built in the 14th century in Gothic style. The arches are 8,5 metres high and gives a strong impression of the greatness of the palace then.

Then there's the kitchens which certainly are much larger than our modern food preparation localities. They cover two floors, where the king had his meals at the upper floor and the bottom floor was assigned to the King's household.

Continue and advance a few centuries into history by visiting the prisons which were used during the revolution. The prisoners lived under miserable conditions, a large change for many compared to their rich and noble backgrounds. In the beginning the most rich would pay fortunes to improve their circumstances, but later under the "Reign of Terror" everybody were treated equal and no more special treatment to anyone.

Finally there's the women's yard, which still looks like it did during the revolution. There is a small garden in the middle of the yard and a fountain in the corner which was used to wash laundry. At the gate the women could speak to the men on the other side.

Practical information:
Website: http://conciergerie.monuments-nationaux.fr/en/
Opening times summer:: 9:30 - 18:00
Price: Free under 18, adults 6,50€, discounts for students and youth.
Metro: Cité
The fun part: Two Gothic halls can be rented for events and large dinners.

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