The PALAIS DE LA CITé, located on the
Île de la Cité in the Seine
River in the center of Paris, was the residence of the Kings of France
from the sixth century until the 14th century. From the 14th century
French Revolution , it was the headquarters of the French
treasury, judicial system and the
Parlement of Paris , an assembly of
nobles. During the Revolution it served as a courthouse and prison,
Marie Antoinette and other prisoners were held and tried by the
Revolutionary Tribunal. The palace was built and rebuilt over the
course of six centuries; the site is now largely occupied by the
buildings of the 19th century Palais de Justice , but a few important
vestiges remain; the medieval lower hall of the
* 1 History
* 1.1 The Roman and Merovingian Palace * 1.2 The Capetian palace * 1.3 Philip-Augustus * 1.4 Louis IX and Sainte-Chapelle * 1.5 Philip IV Le Bel * 1.6 Palace of justice and prison (14th century) * 1.7 From the Renaissance to the Revolution * 1.8 The Revolution and the Terror
* 2 The Palace in the 19th century
* 3 Vestiges of the Medieval Palace
* 3.1 The towers * 3.2 The Medieval halls * 3.3 Sainte-Chapelle * 3.4 The 18th century prison
* 4 References
* 4.1 Notes and citatations * 4.2 Bibliography
THE ROMAN AND MEROVINGIAN PALACE
Archeological excavations have found traces of human habitation on the
Beginning in the 6th century, the
Merovingian kings used the palace
as their residence when they were in Paris. Clovis , the King of the
Franks , lived in the palace from 508 until his death in 511. The
Kings who followed him, the Carolingians, moved their capital to the
eastern part of their empire, and paid little attention to Paris. At
the end of the 9th century, after a series of invasions by the Vikings
threatened the city, King
Charles the Bald
THE CAPETIAN PALACE
Drawing of the Palace as it looked in the 12th century, by Viollet-le-Duc
At the beginning of the Capetian dynasty, the King of
Further additions were made by Louis VI , with the help of his friend and ally, Suger , the Abbot of the Basilica of Saint-Denis. Louis VI finished the chapel of Saint Nicholas, demolished the old tower or donjon in the center, and built a massive new donjon , or tower, the Grosse Tour, 11.7 meters wide at the base, with walls three meters thick. This tower existed until he 1776,
His son, Louis VII (1120-1180) enlarged the royal residence, and
added an oratory ; the lower floor of the oratory later became the
chapel of the present
Philip-Augustus (1180-1223) modernized the royal administration, and placed the royal archives, the treasury and courts within Palais de la Cité, and thereafter the city functioned, except for brief periods, as the capital of the kingdom. In 1187 he welcomed the English king, Richard the Lion-Hearted , to his palace. The court records show the creation of a new official position, the Concierge, who was responsible for the administration of the lower and mid-level law courts within the Palace. The palace later took its name from this position. Philip also greatly improved the air and aroma around the Palace by having the muddy streets around the Palace paved with stone. These were the first paved streets in Paris.
LOUIS IX AND SAINTE-CHAPELLE
The grandson of Philip Augustus, Louis IX (1214-1270), later known as
Saint Louis, built a new shrine within the palace walls to demonstrate
that he was not just King of France, but also the leader of the
Christian world . Between 1242 and 1248, on the site of the old
chapel, he built
Sainte-Chapelle to hold the sacred relics Louis had
acquired in 1238 from the governor of
Louis IX also created several new offices to manage the finances, administration and judicial system of his growing Kingdom. This new bureaucracy, housed within the Palace, eventually led to conflict between the royal government and the nobles, who had their own high court, the Parlement de Paris . To make room for his growing bureaucracy, and to create residences for the Chanoines or Canons , who managed the religious establishment, he had the southern wall of the Palace demolished and replaced with housing. On the north side of the palace, Just outside the walls to the Tour Bonbec he built a new ceremonial hall, the Salle sur l'eau.
PHILIP IV LE BEL
King Philip IV (1285-1314) and his Chamberlain, Enguerrand de Marigny , reconstructed, enlarged and embellished the Palace. On the north side of the Palace, he expropriated land belonging to the Counts of Brittany and constructed new buildings for the Chambre des Enquetes, which supervised public administration; the Grand'Chambre, another high court; and two new towers, the Tour Cesar and the Tour d'Argent, as well as a gallery connecting the palace to the Tour Bombec. The royal offices took their names from the different chambers, or rooms, of the palace; the Chambre des Comptes, chamber of the accounts, was the treasury of the kingdom, and the courts were divided between the Chambre civile and the Chambre criminelle. military high courts. The Grand'Salle of the Palace in the 16th century, by Androuet du Cerceau
On the site of the old Salle de Roi he built a much larger and more
richly decorated assembly hall, the Grand'Salle which had a double
nave, each covered with a high arched wooden roof. A row of eight
columns in the center of the hall supported the wooden framework of
the roof. On each of the pillars, and on columns around the walls,
were placed polychrome statues of the Kings of France. In the center
of the hall was an enormous table made of black marble from Germany,
used banquets, the taking of oaths, meetings of military high courts,
and other official functions. (A fragment of the table still exists,
and is on display in the Conciergerie). The Grand'Salle was used for
royal banquets, judicial proceedings, and theatrical performances.
At the west end of the island, where
Place Dauphine is today, was a
walled private garden, a bath house where the King could bathe in the
water of the river, and a dock, from which the king could travel by
boat to his other residences, the
The lower floor beneath the Grand'Salle contained the Salle des Gardes for the soldiers who protected the King, as well as the dining room for the household of the King, including officers, clerks, court officers and servants. High court officials had their own houses in the city, while lower officials and servants lived within the Palace. The household of the King at the time of Philip le Bel numbered about three hundred persons; counting the servants of the Queen and of the King's children, the number grew to about six hundred.
Philip made several further major changes to the Palace. He reconstructed the south wall of the Palace, and moved the wall on the east side to enlarge the ceremonial courtyard, The new wall, more that of a palace than a fortress, had two large gates. had two large gates. moved the eastern wall to enlarge the ceremonial courtyard. The new wall had two large gates, and ecnhouguettes, or small elevated posts for watchmen at the angles of the wall. He restored the Salle d'Eau, extended the logos de Roi, or royal residence further south, built a new building for Chambre des comptes, or royal treasury, and enlarged the garden. The works were almost complete when the King died in 1314. Philip's successors made a few further additions; Jean II le Bon (1319-1364) constructed new kitchens on two levels northwest of the Grand'Salle, and built a new square tower. Later, his son, Charles V (1338-1380) installed a clock in the tower, and it became known as the Tour de l'Horloge.
PALACE OF JUSTICE AND PRISON (14TH CENTURY)
Hundred Years War
Kings of France
As early as the 14th century, the Palace was also used to confine important prisoners, since it was not necessary to transfer them from the city's major prison at Châtelet for trial. Furthermore, the Palace had its own torture chambers, used to encourage the rapid confessions of prisoners. By the 15th century the Palace was one of the major prisons of Paris. The entrance of the prison was located on the main courtyard, the Cour du Mai, named for the tree that the clerks of the Palace traditionally placed there every spring. The prison cells were located in the lower floors of the Palace and in the towers, where the torture was also conducted. Prisoners were rarely kept there for a long time. As soon as judgement was given, they were taken briefly to the parvis in front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame to have their confession heard, then to their execution on the Place de Greve .
Notable prisoners held at the Palace before their executions included Enguerrand de Marigny , the chancellor of King Philip le Bel, who oversaw the construction of much of the Palace, accused of corruption by the King's successor, Louis X ; Gabriel the Count of Mongomery, whose lance fatally wounded Henry II during a tournament, who was later accused of advocating religious reforms and disobedience to King Charles IX ; François Ravaillac , the assassin of Henry IV ; Marie-Madeleine d'Aubray, the marquise of Brinvilliers, a famous poisoner; the bandit Cartouche ; and Robert François Damien, a Palace servant who tried to kill Louis XV . Jeanne de Valois , the Countess de la Motte, the central figure in the notorious Affair of the Diamond Necklace , who plotted to defraud Marie Antoinette , was held there, whipped, branded with a V for Voleur (thief), then transferred to the Saltpétriére Prison for a life sentence, but escaped a few months later.
FROM THE RENAISSANCE TO THE REVOLUTION
From the 14th through the 18th century, the
Kings of France
In 1618, a major fire destroyed the Grand'Salle. It was reconstructed
following the same plan by
Salomon de Brosse in 1622. In 1630 another
fire destroyed the spire of Sainte-Chapelle, which was replaced in
1671. In 1671, King Louis XIV, always short of money for his grandiose
projects, followed the earlier practice of Henry IV at Place Dauphine,
and began dividing excess land around the palace into lots for new
building. By the 18th century, the palace was completely surrounded by
private houses and shops built right up against its walls.
Louis XIV arrives at the
Palais de la Cité
In the late 17th and 18th centuries, the palace was struck by a
series of natural catastrophes. The river Seine rose during the winter
of 1689-1690, flooding the Palace and causing considerable damage,
including the destruction of the stained glass windows on the lower
level of Sainte-Chapelle. In 1737, a fire destroyed the Cour de
Comptes. The reconstruction of the building was accomplished by
THE REVOLUTION AND THE TERROR
In the turbulent years before the
French Revolution , one important
center of opposition to the authority of the King, the Parlement of
In July, 1789, after the storming of the Bastille, power passed to a new Constituent Assembly, which had little sympathy for the nobles of the Parlement of Paris. The Assembly put the Parlement on an indefinite vacation, and in 1790 the first elected mayor of Paris, Jean Sylvain Bailly , closed and sealed the offices of the Parlement.
The Revolution took a more radical turn in August 1792, when the
The new revolutionary government of the Convention was soon divided
into two factions, the more moderate
Girondins and the more radical
Montagnards , led by
Among the first to be tried was
Marie Antoinette , who had been held
a prisoner for two and half months since the trial and execution of
Prisoners rarely spent a long time in the Conciergerie; most were brought there a few days or at the most a few weeks before their trial. There were as many as six hundred prisoners there at a time; a small number of wealthy prisoners were given their own cells, but most were crowded into large common cells, with straw on the floor. At dawn the cell doors were opened the prisoners were allowed to exercise in the courtyard or in the corridors. Women prisoners went to a separate courtyard with a fountain, where they could wash their clothes. Prisoners gathered at the foot of Bonbec Tower each evening to hear the guards read the names of those who would be brought before the Tribunal the next day. Those whose names were announced were traditionally given a meager banquet with other prisoners that night.
Soon the Tribunal tried anyone who opposed Robespierre. Jacques
THE PALACE IN THE 19TH CENTURY
The Palais in 1858, by Viollet le Duc
Following the Revolution, the Palace became the headquarters of the
judicial system of France, but also continued its vocation as a
prison. During the Consulate of Napoleon Bonapartre, the rebel Georges
Cadoudal was imprisoned there until his execution in 1804. After
Napoleon's downfall, one of his most famous generals, Marshal Michel
Ney , were imprisoned there before his execution in 1815, as was
During the Revolution,
Sainte-Chapelle had been turned into a storage
vault for legal documents, and half of the stained glass removed.
Between 1837 and 1863, a major campaign was begun to restore the
chapel to its medieval splendor. At the same time, the Conciergerie
and Palace of Justice underwent major changes. Between 1812 and 1819,
Antoine-Marie Peyrie restored the vaulted ceiling of the old Medieval
hall of the men-at-arms, and also, at the request of the restored King
Louis XVIII, built an expiatory chapel where the cell of
Another large building project by architects Joseph Louis Duc and Etienne Theodore Dommey by between 1847 and 1871 greatly enlarged the Palais de Justice. They built a new facade along the Boulevard du Palais, constructed a building for the Correctional Police, reconstructed the roof of the Salle des pas-perdus, and restored the Tour de l'Horloge. They also demolished some of the last vestiges of the old palace, including what remained of the Logis du Roi and the Salle sur L'eau', and began construction of a new building for the Cour de cassation.
In May 1871, the Palace was struck by another catastrophe; during the
last days of the
VESTIGES OF THE MEDIEVAL PALACE
The Bonbec Tower (1226-1270) held the torture chamber of the palace prison *
The four towers (Horloge (L), César, Argent, Bonbec (R)) *
The TOUR DE L\'HORLOGE, or clock tower (14th century) *
The clock on the Tour de l'Horloge (14th century)
The four towers along the Seine date back to the Middle Ages, while the facade is more modern, dating to the early 19th century. The tower on the far right, the TOUR BONBEC, is the oldest, built between 1226 and 1270 during the reign of Louis IX , or Saint Louis. It is distinguished by the crenolation at the top of the tower. It originally was a story shorter than the other towers, but was raised to match their height in the renovation of the 19th century. The tower served as the primary torture chamber during the Middle Ages; it was said that prisoners tortured would sing like birds, with a "bon bec', or beak open wide.
The two towers in the center, the TOUR DE CéSAR and the TOUR D\'ARGENT were built in the 14th century. Each has four levels. Starting in the 15th century, the top levels held the offices of the clerks of the court, both criminal and civil. The lower floors contained jail cells.
The tallest tower, the TOUR DE L\'HORLOGE, was constructed by Jean le Bon in 1350, and modified several times over the centuries. The first public clock in Paris, made by Henri d'Vic, was added by Charles V in 1370. The sculptural decoration around the clock, featuring allegorical figures of The Law and Justice, was added in 1585 century by Henry III . They were smashed during the Revolution but later restored. At the top of the tower was a bell, which was rung to announce important events in the life of the royal family, and was also rung to signal the Saint Bartholomew\'s Day Massacre . The original bell was removed and melted down during the Revolution.
The facades were constructed in the 19th century in the neogothic and neoclassic style, during the restoration and rebuilding of the Palace. The facade to the east, or left, is by Antoine-Marie Peyre, and that to the west, or right, by Joseph Louis Duc and Étienne Theodore Dommey.
THE MEDIEVAL HALLS
the SALLE DES GENS D\'ARMES, below the now vanished Medieval Grand'Salle. *
The SALLE DES GARDES, beneath the former Grand'Chambre *
Stairways in the Salle des grades to the Argent and Cesar towers
The two halls in the lower part of the Conciergerie, the SALLE DES GARDES (Hall of the Guards) and the SALLE DES GENS D\'ARMES (Hall of the Men at Arms), along with the kitchens, are the only surviving rooms of the original Capetian palace. When they were built, the two halls were at street level, but over the centuries, as the island was built up to prevent floods, they were below the street. The SALLES DES GARDES was built at the end of the 13th and beginning of the 14th century, as the ground floor of the GRAND\'CHAMBRE, where the King conducted judicial hearings, and where, during the Revolution, the Revolutionary Tribunal met. It was connected with the hall above by a stairway in the southwest part of the hall, and by a second stairway in a tower which was demolished in the 19th century. It is one of the finest examples of medieval architecture in Paris. The hall is 22.8 meters long, 11.8 meters wide, and 6.9 meters high. The massive columns have decorative sculpture of combat of animals and narrative scenes. Two stairways on the north side of the hall lead up to the towers of Argent and Cesar where prison cells were located. During the Revolution, the apartment of the chief prosecutor of the Terror, Fouquier-Tinville, was on the upper floor, and his office was in the Tower of Cesar. The SALLE DES GARDES was filled with prison cells until the mid-19th century, when the hall was restored to its original appearance.
The SALLE DES GENS D\'ARMES was the ground floor below the
magnificent GRAND\'SALLE, where the
Kings of France
The hall underwent many changes and restorations over the centuries. After a fire destroyed most of the upper hall in 1618, the architect Salomon de Brosse built a new hall, but made the error of not placing the new columns over the original columns in the lower level. This led in the 19th century to the collapse of part of the roof of the lower hall, which was rebuilt with additional columns. In the 19th century windows were also added on the north side looking out at the courtyard. The circular stairway in the northeast corner of the Salle, built in the medieval style, was constructed in the 19th century during the reign of Napoleon III , who had briefly been held a prisoner himself in the building.
Main article: Saint Chapelle
The exterior of Sainte-Chapelle (1241-1248) *
The windows of the upper chapel *
The ceiling of the lower chapel
THE 18TH CENTURY PRISON
The RUE DE PARIS *
Prison cells *
The Chapel of the Girondins, converted to prison cells *
Recreation of the cell of
The prison quarter of the Palace visible today dates to the late 18th century. After a fire in 1776, Lous XVI had a section of Conciergerie prison rebuilt; During the French Revolution it served as the principal prison for political prisoners, including Marie Antoinette, before their trials and execution r. The prison was extensively rebuilt in the 19th century, and many famous rooms, such as the original cell of Marie Antoinette, disappeared. However, part of the prison was restored for the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution in 1989, and can be seen by visitors.
The RUE DE PARIS was a section of the Salle des gardes which was separated by a grill from the rest of the hall during the 15th century. During the Revolution it was used as a common cell for prisoners when the all the other cells were full. It took its name from "Monsieur Paris", the nickname for the executioner.
The CHAPEL OF THE GIRONDINS is one chamber that has changed little
since the Revolution. It was constructed after the 1776 fire on the
site of medieval oratory of the Palace. In 1793 and 1794, when the
prison was overcrowded, it was converted to prison cells. It took its
name from the
Girondins , a Revolutionary faction of deputies who
opposed the more Montagnards of
The COUR DES FEMMES was the courtyard where women prisoners,
The cell where
NOTES AND CITATATIONS
* ^ Delon 2000 .
* ^ A B Fierro 1996 , p. 22.
* ^ Delon 2000 , pp. 6-7.
* ^ Delon 2000 , pp. 10.
* ^ A B C Bove Gauvard, Claude (2014). Le
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