European Heritage Days is a flagship event because it is an invitation to discover and rediscover monuments. Usually, the event is held during the third weekend in September, and Paris is participating by opening the doors of its valuable monuments of art, culture, and history. During these two days people are invited to visit the monuments free of charge. Some monuments open their doors exclusively on this weekend and thus the event represents a unique chance for the interested ones to visit them. I found out about this event just few days ahead and I didn’t really researched what to visit. However, I thought that it could be a great start to discover the city. Among numerous notable monuments that you can find in Paris, I decided to visit the Conciergerie Parisian, or what once was part of the Residence of the Kings of France.
The Conciergerie is located on Ile-de-la-Cite(“Island of the City) and was part of the Palais de la Cite, which was the residence of the Medieval Kings of France. Over the years the building was the seat of royal power where the headquarters of council and government was established, and later served as seat of the French Parliament.
Part of the building was converted in prison and was hosting a mix of common and political criminals. This was the prison where the queen Marie Antoinette spent over two months during the French Revolution awaiting for her trial.
After French Revolution, the Conciergerie continued to serve as a prison for high value prisoners. Marie Antoinette’s cell was transformed into a chapel in her memory.
Even though the palace kept its medieval look , the Conciergerie underwent major reconstructions and most parts of the building date from the 19th century. However, few important vestiges remained among which the lower parts of the medieval halls (still at its 14th century level) and the impressive Sainte-Chapelle. The former royal chapel was built in two levels. The lower level served as parish church for residents of the Palace and the upper level was reserved only for the royal family.
It is believed that the chapel was built to house the Crown of thorns and other relics of Christ that Louis IX had in his possession. The upper level of the chapel features one of the most impressive glass work that I ever seen. The moment you enter the room your breath is taken away by the majesty of this colored ceiling tall windows.
Today a small part of the Conciergerie is open to public while the rest of it is still used for the Paris law courts.
Obviously, two days are not enough to visit everything, but with a good planning it is possible to discover a fair amount of monuments. Also, take in consideration the waiting and visiting time while planning because some monuments might have longer waiting lines than others.