A royal palace converted into a torturous prison, La Conciergerie went from the most illustrious building in France to the most ignominious.
The seat of the throne of France for more than 400 years from the 10th century to the 14th century, the medieval building was known at the time as the Palais de la Cité. Then, in 1358, King Charles V decided to call the Louvre Palace his home, moving out of the Palais de la Cité. He left a concierge to tend to the building, and it soon acquired the name La Conciergerie.
In 1391, part of La Conciergerie was converted into a prison for every class of criminal, and a criminal’s cell was based on his or her wealth. Those who could afford it received a plush bed and a desk with reading and writing materials, much like a rather decent hotel room. The poorest criminals slept on straw and contracted infectious diseases from the rats that kept room with them. Marie Antoinette was incarcerated in one of the nicest rooms available.
The worst was yet to come during the French Revolution, when a ten-month Reign of Terror had 40,000 citizens beheaded on the guillotine. Many inmates were party to the unlucky numbers.
By 1914, the prison was decommissioned and reopened as a historic building for the public interest.
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