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The Conciergerie is a medieval palace on the Ile de la Cite in Paris. It dates back to the 10th century when it was the seat of the Merovingian empire. Under Louis IX the magnificent Saint Chapelle chapel was added where the King had the relics of the passion of Christ stored. As you will recall we visited Saint Chapelle on stop seven of our adventures. From the outside the palace is beautiful, especially when lit up at night. It sits right on the banks of the Seine and its turrets conjure up images of Disney princesses.

The inside of the Conciergerie is a completely different story. As it is a medieval palace it has very few windows and therefore is dark and uninviting. As it sits right on the river it is also extremely damp. Perhaps this was part of the reasoning for turning it into a prison. The oldest and largest tower of the palace is where, in the 13th century, prisoners were tortured until they confessed. The tower is known as Bonbec Tower, a rather sick joke as bon bec in French means the gift of gab.

More famously, however, the Conciergerie served as a prison during the French Revolution. This medieval palace became the second to last stop for over 2000 people executed by the guillotine for treason. I say second to last stop because their last stop was the Place de la Concorde where they were executed. As beheading was a form of execution reserved for the nobility (it was the fastest way to die) the majority of people who came through the Conciergerie were from a high class and one of its prisoners was none other than the Queen, Marie-Antoinette. It is said that once the queen was sentenced to death her hair went white overnight. The Conciergerie was her home until she was beheaded at the age of thirty six.

There are gruesome stories about the headless bodies of the dead piling up in the Conciergerie and rats eating the corpses. Fifteen to twenty prisoners were often stuffed into small, cramped, cells and the entire prison was said to reek of urine and death.

The Conciergerie continued to be used as a prison until 1914. It is now a museum and national monument.

I have to confess that this is one of my least favourite visits on our tour. The inside of the palace is depressing and as you walk past the cells you can only imagine the horror that must have ensued here during the Reign of Terror. What a horrible place to spend your last days before being executed. Perhaps during the middle ages this palace saw grand feasts and gatherings but all it congers for me now is a place of torture and torment.

We are now at the end of the Revolution and will next move into the Empire and the Restoration. Lets go and meet Napoleon Bonaparte.

Next stop – Malmaison

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