April 25, 2016

2491 FRANCE (Île-de-France) - Conciergerie and Pont au Change - part of Paris, Banks of the Seine (UNESCO WHS)

The Conciergerie is a former prison, located on the west of the Île de la Cité (Island of the City) presently mostly used for law courts. It was part of the Palais de la Cité, originally the site of a Merovingian palace, which was the seat of the Kings of France from the 10th to the 14th centuries. Charles V abandoned the palace in 1358, moving across the river to the Louvre. The palace continued to serve an administrative function and still included the chancellery and French Parliament.

In the king's absence, he appointed a concierge to hold command of the palace. In 1391, part of the building was converted for use as a prison and took its name from the ruling office. Three towers survive from the medieval Conciergerie: the Caesar Tower, named in honor of the Roman Emperors; the Silver Tower, named for its alleged use as the store for the royal treasure; and the Bonbec (good beak) Tower, named for the torture chamber that it housed, in which victims were encouraged to "sing".

Despite lasting only ten months, the Reign of Terror (September 1793-July 1794) had a profound impact on France. More than 40,000 people died from execution and imprisonment, and France would not be a republic again for nearly half a century. The Conciergerie prison, also known as the "antechamber to the guillotine", became the central penitentiary of a network of prisons throughout Paris, and was the final stop of over 2,700 people, who were summarily executed by guillotine.

Famous prisoners include Queen Marie Antoinette, poet André Chénier, Charlotte Corday, Madame Élisabeth, Madame du Barry and the 21 Girondins, purged at the beginning of the Terror. Georges Danton later awaited his execution here, and, during the Thermidorian Reaction, Robespierre himself was interned for a short time before his execution. After the Restoration of the Bourbons, it continued to be used as a prison for high-value prisoners, most notably the future Napoleon III.

The Conciergerie underwent major rebuilding in the mid-19th century, totally altering their external appearance, and was decommissioned in 1914. It is today a popular tourist attraction, although only a relatively small part of the building is open to public access; much of it is still used for the Paris law courts. The Pont au Change, constructed from 1858 to 1860, connects the Île de la Cité from the Palais de Justice and the Conciergerie, to the Right Bank, at the Place du Châtelet.

The Conciergerie and the Pont au Change are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Paris, Banks of the Seine, about which I wrote here

About the stamp
The stamps are the same blue Marianne et l'Europe, about which I wrote  here.

Conciergerie - Wikipedia
Pont au Change - Wikipedia

Sender: Marius Vasilescu
Sent from Paris (France), on 31.05.2012

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