In this new monthly series, we take a look around France’s many beautiful historical buildings under the care of the Centre des Monuments Nationaux. This month, La Conciergerie in Paris.
From royal palace to prison for Marie-Antoinette
In the heart of Paris on the Ile de la Cité, stands the oldest remaining part of the royal palace which housed the kings of France from the 6th century. In 1200, Philip II made the Palais de la Cité the seat of power of the Capetian dynasty. Philip IV subsequently remodelled and extended the palace to house the kingdom’s administrative institutions. The kings of France abandoned the palace at the end of the 14th century to settle in the Louvre and Vincennes.
Known as La Conciergerie – a concierge was appointed by the king to maintain order, direct the police and record the prisoners – the building held the Palace Parliament, the highest judicial body of the kingdom. This is also where the revolutionary trials were held between 1793 and 1795. It became one of the main places of detention during the French Revolution and held, among others, Marie Antoinette before her execution. It continued to hold a judicial function and later became a courthouse. It still holds the Paris Justice Palace nowadays.
Today, you can discover this impressive example of Gothic architecture, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on a fascinating visit of the monument. From the medieval Palace of the City, the guard room and the immense room of the Men at Arms erected under Philippe le Bel, as well as the kitchens built under Jean le Bon, remain. The Sainte Chapelle, built under Louis IX, also still stands today and never fails to dazzle with its intricate stained-glass windows.
The museum was recently revamped to offer an enriched Revolution section, as well as entirely renovated kitchens. Since 2021, an enhanced experience is available to visitors with the museum’s Histopads, a digital mediation tool that allows you to step back in time thanks to its augmented reality, 3D reconstructions and interactive functionalities.
Open from 9:30 to 18:00. Online booking recommended. Tickets: €11,50 (includes the Histopad and the access to temporary exhibitions)
A new exhibition: Paris, Capital of Gastronomy from the Middle Ages to Today
Set in the Men at Arms room, which used to house the old medieval canteen, this new exhibition takes a culinary trip in time of the French capital’s gastronomic heritage, from Charles V’s legendary banquet to the city’s contemporary success in becoming a hub of creative cooking, with its diverse offer of high-end gourmet experiences and authentic traditional restaurants. Paintings, manuscripts, original menus, culinary creations, videos, photos and a selection of ‘arts de la table’ will be presented in this mouth-watering exhibition starting April 13th. A series of workshops, tastings, conferences, guided tours and children’s animations will be held alongside the exhibition.
A highlight of the calendar of events surrounding the exhibition is a dinner party recreating the feast held by Charles V in 1378 for his uncle which saw three kings dine together! The 10-course dinner will serve never-before recreated dishes from this historical event and period animations, plunging diners into the atmosphere of a medieval fête. Held on May 24 at 19:30, 60€ a person; bookings available soon.
« Paris, capitale de la gastronomie, du Moyen Âge à nos jours » (French webpage) April 13 – July 16 2023
Lead photo credit : La Conciergerie from the rooftops of Paris © Caroline Rose / Centre des Monuments Nationaux
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