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Looking like the quintessential French castle, the Conciergerie is actually a part of a former royal palace, then prison, located on the west of the Ile de la Cite. It's on the site of the Palais de Justice, which is still used for judicial purposes. It's something of an infamous site, having been used to hold hundreds of pioneers during the French Revolution, many of whom were executed via guillotine. Royal residences have long graced this location. The western part of the island was originally the site of a Merovingian palace, known as the Palais de la Cite, and it served as the seat of medieval French kings from the tenth to the fourteenth centuries. It was more heavily fortified and expanded in the thirteenth century. The famous chapel Sainte-Chapelle was built under Louix XI, and the Grand Salle, or Great Hall, still survives. The palace was abandoned in 1358, as the royal residence moved across the river to the present site of the Louvre. This palace continued to function as an administrative sear, however, which included the French Parliament. It is so named for the concierge, essentially the housekeeper, who held command of the palace when the king was not in residence. Three medieval towers survive, including the Caesar Tower, the Silver Tower, named for its alleged use as a royal treasury, and the Bonbec tower, so named for the torture chamber it contained.

The site also has a more dubious association, in that it played a prominent role during the Reign of Terror, which lasted from September, 1793 to July, 1794. Anyone even considered a counterrevolutionary was guilty of trason and condemned to death. The Revolutionary Tribunal was established at the Palace of Justice under Antoine Quentin Fouquier-Tinvillee, a radical public prosecutor. This tribunal alone sent nearly 2,600 accused to the guillotine. The prison thus became known as the antechamber to the guillotine, as it was the staging point for innumerable executions. Curiously, treatment depended on one's wealth, which seems contrary to the goals of the Revolution: wealthy prisoners could rent a bed for 27 livres, 12 sous for the frist month and 22 livres and change for the rest of their "stay." Prisoners sometimes paid for a month but were executed within days, making rent here a lucrative business. Celebrity prisoners got cells to themselves, but others were crammed into single rooms infested with rats. Marie Antoinette was hsld here, as was her confidant Charlotte Corday, along with Madame du Barry, and even Robespierre himself before his escape to and last stand at the Hotel de Ville. Napoleon III was also imprisoned here for a time after the restoration of the Bourbons in the 19th century, and it was heavily renovated in the mid-nineteenth century as well, when it acquired much of its present-day appearance. It was finally decommissioned in 1914 and opened to the public as a historic monument. Marie Antoinette's cell can still be visited.

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Additional Photos by Terez Anon (terez93) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 74 W: 78 N: 602] (1366)
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