THE PALACE OF JUSTICE – A PLACE OF TERROR DURING THE FRENCH REVOLUTION:
At 4 boulevard du Palais, on Ile de la Cité, is the Palais de Justice, one of the most important official buildings in Paris. The “Palace of Justice” stands on a site that had been a place of government since Roman times. It was also the site of the former royal palace of Saint Louis. When the kings of France began building palaces elsewhere, the site evolved to become the seat of the sovereign court of the land.
Not Always a Place of Justice
The Palais de Justice has a very long link to the history of Paris. Since mediaeval times, justice has been dispensed from here. More notably, during the French Revolution the Parlement de Paris operated from this site. The Revolutionary Tribunal terrorized the royalists, priests, political opponents, innocent victims and anyone that was against the revolution were condemned in the courts that sat here. Within thirteen months, these courts pronounced 1,220 death sentences, yes, death sentences on an industrial scale. Condemned prisoners were then sent to the building next door which we know as the Conciergerie. The Chambre Dorée is particularly remembered because it was the place where in 1793 Marie-Antoinette received the death sentence.
The Palais de Justice: a place of terror during the French Revolution
Palais de Justice Visit
The Palais de Justice shares the same real estate as the Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie. When faced with a long queue for Sainte-Chapelle, we decided to visit the Palais de Justice instead. The wrought iron gate to the Cour du Mai is the main entrance, but this is not where you actually access the Palais de Justice, although you do exit from there. Like everyone visiting Sainte-Chapelle or the Palais de Justice, you have to go through security check at a side entrance to the left of the building. There’s actually another entrance from the Place Dauphine, but visitors can’t access the building from that side.
The Palais de Justice was reconstructed over a ten year period from 1857. It may not seem massive from the front entrance, but the Palais complex stands on 4 hectares of land and the total floor space is about 200,000 sq metres. When we entered the grand lobby, it was quite deserted, but apparently some 4,000 judges and officials work at the Palais. They were probably all behind doors (there are 7,000 doors) in the various courtrooms. Although we only explored the area around the main lobby, there is actually 24 km of corridors in the building.
We were almost the only people there and as there were no notices that said you couldn’t visit certain areas, we had a good look around and even entered the the Chambre des Criées.
Although it is an important building in the history of Paris, it does not seem to receive as many visitors as other Paris attractions. As such, Tony was able to do quite a long video take of the interior without too much interruption.
Palais de Justice
4 boulevard du Palais
Did I leave anything out?