Palace and prison
Residence of the Kings of France
In the 6th century, Clovis, the first French king, established his royal residence on the Ile-de-laCite. Five centuries later, Hugues Caper, the first Capetian king, established his council and government in the Palais de la Cite, which thus became the seat of royal power.
Symbol of royal power
In the 14th century, Philippe IV the Fair – continuing the work of his grandfather, Saint Louis – turned the Palace into a prestigious symbol of the monarchy. It became the seat of the Parlement de Paris.
Palace of justice and prison
At the end of the 14th century, Charles V left the royal residence on the Ile-de-la-Cite for the hotel Saint-Pol, since destroyed, following the assassination of his father’s advisors. He appointed a steward, or “concierge”, endowed with legal powers, to run the Palace and prison Numerous prisoners of State were kept here, such as Ravaillac, Henri IV’s assassin. In later times, the Revolutionary Tribunal sat in the Palace and used it increasingly as a prison. The Conciergerie was listed as a historical monument in 1914.
A major centre during the Revolution
The Revolutionary Tribunal
In 1790, the mayor of Paris sealed the doors of the Palace, up until then the seat of the Parlement de Paris”. The Revolutionary Tribunal initiated in March 1793 took over the Grand Chamber. In July, Robespierre joined the Committee for Public Safety with a programme based on virtue and terror. The “Law of Suspects” ordered the arrest of anyone pre-sumed to be an enemy of the Revolution or who confessed to being so.
Over 1793 and 1794, more than 2,700 people appeared before Fouquier-Tinville, the tribunal’s public prosecutor, including Queen Marie-Antoinette and Robespierre. The trials of famous people gave way to collective trials. In 1794, witnesses and defenders were eliminated and tens of people were guillotined each day. After the fall of Robespierre, the Tribunal was dissolved in May 1795.
Everyday life in the prison
The Conciergerie had a reputation for being the toughest of all prisons. During the Reign of Terror”, its cells accommodated several hundred prisoners kept in terribly unhealthy and crowded conditions. Up until 1794, “suspects” were kept together with common law prisoners. On the eve of their court appearance, prisoners were notified that their trial was to begin
and of the charges brought against them by the “evening journal” or bill of indictment. Once the verdict had been given, prisoners sentenced to death were allowed to enjoy a final feast.