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Prison life during the Revolution

Did you know that the Conciergerie was not always the palace of the kings of France?

A prison of passage

When Charles V left the Palace at the end of the 14th century, prisons were built and entrusted to the administration of a concierge: this is where the monument got its name: "the Conciergerie".
During the Revolution, prison activity intensified.

Most of the time, the prisoners did not stay long in the Conciergerie: they were immediately brought before the Revolutionary Court (March 1793-May 1795) and left as soon as the judgment was rendered.

The prisoners were very diverse: the category of suspect was very vague, and political opponents cohabited with common criminals.

The number of prisoners was three times higher than under the Ancien Régime, exceeding 500 at the height of the Revolution. The poorest prisoners were crammed into very small, dark cells with no furniture (the "Commun" or "Paille"). The wealthier prisoners bought themselves a minimum of comfort (the "Pistole" is a name that was used, in French, to qualify certain gold coins. It became an informal unit of account between the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century).
Some have larger cells, even receive visits, write, have a last portrait done...
During the day, after the morning opening of the cells, the women as well as the men went out in separate yards. The women's courtyard, which has remained almost unchanged since the Revolution, remains within the visiting path.

It should be noted that the Conciergerie has never been a place of execution, but it was from the nearby courtyard that the carts took the condemned to the guillotine.

The Hall of Names presents the great diversity of more than 4000 prisoners who passed before the Revolutionary Court and their fate: acquittal, exile or execution.

Salle des noms
Salle des noms

Benjamin Gavaudo - Centre des monuments-nationaux

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