Revolutionary Paris: Conciergerie Prison #TuesdayTravels

Tuesday Travel buttonAfter a morning of visiting churches, Rebecca and I stopped for lunch across the street from the Palace of Justice. We both ordered Seafood Salad. I liked the baby shrimp on greens and the salmon mousse that we spread on toast, but not the smoked salmon. I felt guilty for not eating it, but I really don’t like the taste of smoked fish, or meat for that matter.

Palais de Justice

Mid-19th c. Palais de Justice with Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite above the doors.

Fortified, we headed to the Conciergerie, a Medieval royal palace later turned into a prison, and the site of Marie Antoinette’s imprisonment until her death at the guillotine in 1793. I found a better picture than I could take at Deposit Photos. This photo was obviously taken on a much nicer day than the day of our visit!


Bridge of Change (Pont au Change) over river Seine and Conciergerie Castle.–© [email protected]

The great hall, formerly the Salle des Gardes, Hall of the Soldiers, has marvelous medieval arches and vaulted ceilings.

It was chilly inside, and not just because of the temperatures. I believe some buildings retain residual joy or sadness, and what I felt here was sadness. Or perhaps it is haunted. During the Reign of Terror, the Revolutionary Tribunal sent 2,6000 people to their deaths, including the unlucky queen.


The marble bust of French queen Marie-Antoinette, © abxyz


Keys to the cells

We went to the upper floors to look at the cells, some of which were quite small. Others, presumably for important prisoners, were larger, such as these.

Pretty grim and depressing, I think. I also took a not-very-good photo of a 1790 print of the Conciergerie in the background and a tumbrel of prisoners being taken to their death.

La Conciergerie 1790

La Conciergerie 1790

I’ve been thinking a lot about the French Revolution lately, doing research and gearing up for a new story set in the 1790s. The revolution started with such high principles, and then took a turn to the violent, becoming about revenge against the old order and even against the moderate revolutionaries. It’s a sobering lesson for all of us, I think.

I promise next week’s post will be cheerier.


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