The Conciergérie, Paris

So back to Paris, on a cloudy cool Autumn day in my Morbihan breton and Paris I like quickly tell you about something huge that I have written in pieces bits by bits before. Sorry for the long post, but this is pretty much in condense form the history of France even to the French Republic.

I will be telling you about history that I like on the Conciergérie of Paris in the Palais de la Cité!  The Palais de la Cité (City palace) was the residence and seat of the power of the kings of France from the 10C  to the 14C. It extended on the western part of the island of La Cité in the 1éme arrondissement of Paris.  Today, a large part of the site is occupied by the courthouse of Paris and most of the remains of this palace are constituted by the former prison of the Conciergérie which runs along the quai de l’Horloge.

Paris

Mérovingians period:  Dagobert I, King of the Franks from 629 to 638, had a roving court, but it is known that he stayed in this palace. The importance of the place is confirmed by the fact that he had a monetary workshop established there. In 635, it was founded, under the protection of the King, in front of the palace (on the northern edge of the present police prefecture), a women’s abbey dedicated to Saint Martial of Limoges and then known as Saint-Eloi.

Carolingian period: The palais de la Cité was the home of the Counts of Paris. It was inhabited by King Hugues Capet, first King Capetian, who established the Curia Regis (the Royal Council) and various services of his administration.

Robert II the Pious, son of Hugues Capet, undertook at the end of his reign to rebuild in Paris a very remarkable palace. He profoundly transformed the ancient citadel of the lower Empire, remaining within the limits of the rampart, which formed a quadrilateral of about 100 to 135 meters aside. This was the first Logis du Roi (king’s residence): the building, located to the west of the palace, is visible on one of the miniatures of the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (very rich hours of the Duke of Berry).

The documents relating to the reigns of Henry I and Philip I  provide only rare indications of the palace. However, the existence of a king’s room was well confirmed as early as the 11C. Louis VI the Fat  appears to have carried out major additions and resurfacings. Louis VI had the King’s residence altered between the two quadrangular towers which framed the square tower and the tower called later tour de la librarie (library tower).

In 1141, Louis VII the Young  established  in the palace and in an exclusive way, the changers on the Grand-Pont, therefore named Pont-aux-Changeurs. For a fee, they rented shops to carry out their business. On the eastern side, the main entrance to the palace was in the large courtyard where there was a staircase of honor. Thus, around 1165-1166, the king officially welcomed the monks of Vézelay on the palace rights. These rights were to give access to the floor of a gallery linking the king’s room to the St. Nicholas Chapel. Lous VII erected in his palace a Royal oratory, dedicated to the Virgin, located at the site of the present-day Chapel of the Girondins. In the Saint-Michel chapel, located to the southeast of the palace, the Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully, celebrated a Sunday of the second fortnight of August 1165, the baptism of the son of Louis VII, the future Philip II Auguste. However, this chapel remained outside the palace walls until the reign of Jean II the Good.

Philip Auguste II  enlarged the palace’s functions by awarding it in 1190, before his departure for the crusade, the preservation of the royal archives. To the west, the King’s garden occupied the tip of the island, beyond a courtyard bounded by the walls of the palace dating from antiquity. It was undoubtedly during the reign of Philip Auguste  that it was enclosed by a wall. It was during the reign of Philip Auguste  that the palace of the city lost its status as the main fortress of Paris when the king erected the château fort of the Louvre and gave the city of a new rampart.

From the reign of Saint Louis in the 1240’s  and for nearly a century of works, the palace underwent a remarkable expansion and structuring corresponding to the development of the radiance and centralization of the royal power. Saint Louis shared the space of the original quadrilateral: the western part reserved for the private apartments of the royal family, an eastern part open to the city, a southern part devolved to the canons of the Holy Chapel and to the Chaplains of the King. Saint Louis built the Sainte-Chapelle between 1242 and 1248. The work began with the demolition of the St. Nicholas Chapel. , the Sainte-Chapelle is a magnified version of two-story chapel, as high as a Gothic  cathedral (36 meters long, 17 meters wide, 42.5 meters high without the arrow). Next to the Sainte-Chapelle, adjoining by a passage the first northern span of its apse, Saint Louis built the Revestiaire , which housed the Sacristy and the treasure of the charters. It is known that Saint Louis consumed his marriage in the green room, adjoining the oratory, located north of the King’s residence, even though he usually slept in the king’s room, the upper room adjoining the King’s Room, and took his meals in the level Lower of the latter.

During the reign of Philip III the Bold, the palace grew to the west, to the north, to the south, beyond the walls of the 3C. Around the palace, the banks were extended. We know the destination of the buildings under the reign of the son of Saint Louis. In 1278, the King’s room ceased to be the place where the Curia Regis’s legal sessions were held to become the pleaders ‘ waiting room before they entered the room Aus Paiz outside the pleadings, the king took his meals there , while the common  was restored under the King’s Room. The king slept in the room of the so-called upper chamber.  The tower adjoining the King’s Room housed the wardrobe in which the chamberlains ate.  Between the galerie des Merciers and the northern flank of the Sainte-Chapelle, was the courthouse of the king who was next to the treasure of the charters. In the heart of the palace, the room of the audiences  or the cashier of the Hotel du Roi.

Philip IV The Beautiful  had the palace rebuilt. The work was completed in 1313. Philip IV Le Bel arranged the Grand Hall. The Grand Hall of the palais de la Cité was the room where the king held his  justices and in which were held the receptions. The meals were served on the Black marble table. This room is exceptional (the largest vestige of a Gothic Civil Hall of Europe): 64 meters long, 27.5 meters wide and 8.5 meters high, it was built between 1302 and 1313.

Jean II le Bon (Good)  made several arrangements in the Palais de la Cité. In December 1349, just before his advent, then Duke of Normandy, made work in the Chamber of the palace, perhaps on the second floor of the King’s residence. At the beginning of the 1350’s, the wing of the galerie des Merciers was also raised, building pebbles to the east of the palace. The Dauphin’s apartment was in the  Galethas room; the future Charles V lived here  between 1357 and 1358

The events following the capture of Jean II led his son Charles V to leave the palace as early as 1360. Jean II’s widow moved to the Hôtel Saint-Pol and Charles V at the Château du Louvre. Charles V made several works to maintain and beautify the palais de la Cité. Thus, during repairs undertaken in 1370, in the northeast tower of the first public clock in Paris was built and by 1371,he gave it a silver bell.  Under Charles VI the beloved, various works were undertaken and the palace abandoned by the King continued to serve as a setting for the royal feasts.

Renaissance period:  After King Charles VIII had affirmed his right to rule, during a courtship solemnly held in the Grand Hall  in July 1484; he ordered works at the Sainte-Chapelle.  Louis XII follow up king  Charles VIII ,also did some work here such as on the south side of the palace courthouse alone the Sainte-Chapelle.

The last Valois: François I, celebrated around the marble table of the Grand Hall his wedding with Eleanor of Habsburg  in 1530. The latter’s brother, Charles V, was lavishly received  in 1540. During the reign of Henry II (1547-1559), Parliament continued to play an increasing role in the conduct of domestic and external policy; Henri III (1574-1589) undertook, from 1578, the realization of the land of the future Pont Neuf (new bridge)  by bringing together the old islets by a considerable supply of embankments. He also backfill the South shore to establish a wharf. This was the end of the jardin du roi and the Hötel du Bailliage built to the south of this garden and occupied since the reign of Charles V by the Concierge of the palace  appointed from then bailiff.

The Bourbon period: With the reign of Henri IV began a period of intense urbanization in the vicinity of the medieval palace. The king conceded in 1607 to the first President of Parliament, Achille de Harlay the land at the tip of the island, to build houses there: This led to the creation between 1607 and 1620 of the place Dauphine. Louis XIII pursued his father’s work by creating the first true stone quays of the île de la Cité. During the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715), the palace underwent various works, including the reconstruction of the first Chamber of Petitions, the Parquet, and the registry. In 1737, during the reign of Louis XV (1715-1774), the palace had a third fire which destroyed the Chamber of accounts. Jacques V Gabriel built a classical ensemble instead. Begun in 1738, the work was completed two years later. A fourth fire took place at the beginning of the reign of Louis XVI (1774-1792), in 1776. The sovereign seized the opportunity and decided to clear the main entrance to the palace. It was able to give a monumental appearance in accordance with the architectural tastes of the time. The Sainte-Chapelle and the old Grand-Hall became the Salle de Pas Perdu (lost steps room). The new neoclassical facades of the galerie des Merciérer with its colossal Corinthian order, square dome and monumental staircase and the Dauphine gallery were then arranged. In 1778, the big tower was demolished. The demolition of the eastern enclosure began in 1781 and was followed in 1783 by the Charter treasure. In 1785, the construction of a new east-west Wing, called Galerie de la Sainte-Chapelle, bordering the latter on its northern flank. The Dauphine gallery was modified to border the whole of the Salle de Pas Perdu. Finally, the new courtyard of honor of the palace was closed in 1787 by a grid made of wrought iron and gilded.

In 1789, the Palais de la Cité housed the main institutions of the Kingdom of France, including the Chamber of Auditors, the Court of Currencies, the Court of Aid and especially the Parliament of Paris. It housed in 1791 the Court of Cassation, established in the Grand chamber, the Criminal Court of Paris was also installed there as well as the departments of Police, Forests, Finances and Contributions; in 1793, the Revolutionary Court settled on the first floor, in the former Grand Chamber of the Paris Parliament, renamed the Liberty Hall, and a second room, called Equality, was established in the former Salle Saint-Louis. The public Prosecutor of the Tribunal, Fouquier-Tinville, had set up its offices on the same floor, between the towers of Caesar and Money. From 1793 to 1794, more than 2700 people appeared before him, including Marie-Antoinette and Robespierre. Therefore, all the prisoners who were detained in the various prisons of Paris, as well as in some provincial prisons, who were to appear before the court, were gradually transferred to the concierge. In 1794, witnesses and defenders are suppressed and every day several dozen people are guillotined. Arrested on 27 July 1794, Robespierre was sentenced to death the next day by the Revolutionary Court. In 1795 the Convention abolished the Revolutionary Court and the Court of Cassation returns to the Palais de la Cité. In the course of the consular and then imperial reforms, the judicial administration took possession of the palace, which then became the Palais de Justice in Paris.

Under the first Empire, the Sainte-Chapelle was transformed into a deposit of the national Archives and retained this assignment until 1837. Under the Restoration, at the request of king Louis XVIII, a atoning chapel was erected at the site of Queen Marie Antoinette’s  dump well. The restoration of the vaults of the lower Grand-Hall started under the Empire was completed in 1819 and resulted in its release.  The northern façade of the palace between the clock tower and the Bonbec tower  was done in a medieval style.

Under the July Monarchy,  between 1833 and 1835 the Galerie Saint-Louis in Gothic where the implementations of the first theories on the restitution of medieval polychromies was held. Under the Second Empire, this project was largely carried out in parallel with the restoration works of the Sainte-Chapelle and the medieval buildings of the Conciergerie. The facade of the six civil chambers of the Court of first Instance, north-east of the palace, along the quay de l’Horloge was continued in the Gothic style as well as the façade to the east of the Salle des Pas Perdu. The palace was enlarged to the north-west and to the side of the quai  des Orfèvres. In particular, the construction of the buildings of the Cour de Cassation began in 1856. It was also during this period that the former king’s residence  was destroyed.

In the midst of the uprising of the Commune, the courthouse, barely completed, was the subject of arson in 1871 (as many in Paris in this period). The Salle des Pas Perdu and the Grand Hall  were completely destroyed in the fire. Under the Third Republic, the work has in particular focused on a revision of the organization of the central and southwest parts of the palace; In 1874, the east side of place Dauphine was demolished to enhance the neo-Greek ordinance of the facade of Harlay done by 1914. In 1881, the Court of Cassation was terminated  Building the premises of the Court of Grande instance of Paris; the work started in 1907 was completed in 1914. It finally lost his prison function in 1934.

The Sainte Chapelle, and the Conciergerie are open to the public, and temporary exhibitions are held there. The four towers overlooking the Seine are remnants of the Middle Ages, the facades were built in the 19C. The daily life of the Conciergérie  prison is restored ː the Registrar’s Office, responsible for registering the detainees on the registers; The concierge’s office, now under the French revolution period and responsible for the prisoners; revolutionary jails , and the cell of Marie-Antoinette. The blade of the guillotine that served the execution of Lacenaire is exposed.

Paris

Things to see as much as I like them:

The Salle des Gens d’Armes (Hall of the Guards), formerly refectory of the palace. The Rue de Paris takes its name from Monsieur de Paris, nickname given to the executioner of the Revolutionary Court, who came to visit the prisoners through this corridor. The great courtyard; It was the old King’s Garden, which had been replaced by a large rectangular courtyard. The Central corridor: dark and narrow, distributed on his route many rooms: The window room, the office of the conciergerie, the registry, the back-graft, the parlour, a rest room for the tellers, the infirmary, the chapel, some cells For women… The Court of women, an old garden bordering the King’s residence, this courtyard was the place for women to walk. The clerk’s office: It was reconstituted in the Concierge museum. This room has become the bar of the courthouse. The toilet room: In this place, the condemned to death were stripped of their personal objects for the benefit of the State or the hangman, low paid and for whom, therefore, there were no small gains: jewellery, snuff, spectacles, watches.  To the Cour du Mai, where the carts were waiting for them to lead them to their place of execution. The small royal chapel ,called Chapelle des Girondins, it occupies the location of the medieval oratory of the king. Marie-Antoinette’s first cell: Marie-Antoinette of Austria was installed in the former meeting room of the tellers overlooking the women’s court by a narrow window. Marie-Antoinette’s second cell: it is located next to the small royal chapel. For more privacy, the cell was cut in half by a partition of planks with a screen separating it from the two constables, which ensured its constant supervision. See the towers such as tour Bonbec, closest to the Seine river, andTour d’Argent, Tour de César , and Tour de l’Horloge , the most famous located at the angle of the Quai de l’Horloge and Boulevard du Palais.

The interesting points about this clock are:  Henri II appears through his monogram, composed of the H of Henri with the C of Catherine de  Medici, his wife. The small subtlety of this monogram is that each bar of H joins perfectly to the C, so as to form a D… The D of Diane de Poitiers, the favourite of King Henry II!  The son of Henry II, King Henry III, left some traces too, a visible inscription in Latin in the cartridge located above the dial. You can read this: QVI DEDIT ANTE DVAS TRIPLICEM DABIT ILLE CORONAM

This text simply refers to King Henry III by naming his two crowns.  He who has already given him two crowns will give him a third.  So we can guess the divine right that gave him the crowns of Poland and France, and the third Crown refers here to the motto of the King, Manet ultima cælo  something meaning , the last is in heaven, for the purpose of the king and all mortals and to find myself  fine in the Kingdom of Heaven. These two reliefs are allegories of law and justice. The law stands to the left of the dial, and carries a sceptre and a well-visible tablet, having this inscription in Latin: SACRA DEI CELEBRARE PIVS REGALE TIME IVS. Something like meaning, the allegory of Righteousness stands on the right side of the dial, with the balance in her left hand and the sword in her right hand, the two classic attributes of justice.  These two women have the golden body to gold, and their held is in a royal blue.

Finally, Henri IV appears by his monogram, the H of Henri interspersed at the M of Marguerite de Valois, not only on the periphery of the cartridge containing the emblems of the Kingdom of France and the Kingdom of Poland, but also in much larger on the boxes located under the small roof of the clock, thus accompanying the monogram of King Henry II, and this alternately, a box on two.  There is a third one, in a rectangular cartridge placed under the clock, bearing this text: MACHINA QVÆ BIS SEX TAM JVSTE DIVIDIT HORAS JVSTITIAM SERVARE MONET LEGES QVE TVERI. Meaning somehow, this machine that makes twelve hours so fair teaches to protect justice and to defend the laws. Lovely my France!!!

Some webpages to help you plan your visit here are

Official Conciergerie de Paris

Tourist office of Paris on the Conciergerie

For info , it is included in the Paris museum pass: Official Paris Museum Pass

From France’s National Monuments site in English: Official National Monuments of France

There you a whole history book on a few phrases, of course not complete but it gives you a taste to know, you must come to see it and understand my belle France.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

 

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3 Comments to “The Conciergérie, Paris”

  1. I went to the Saint-Chappelle, which I found really beautiful, but not the Conciergérie. Seems I missed out on seeing a very interesting and historic building.

    Liked by 1 person

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