Medieval Paris

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Sainte-Chappelle of Paris

The Sainte-Chapelle on Ile-de-la-Cite was part of  the Palais de la Cite, the medieval palace of the Capetian dynasty.  The building was first started in 1239 and consecrated in 1248 by Louis XI in order to house his collection of Passion Relics such as Christ Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross and the Holy Lance, some of the most important relics in Christendom. The Sainte-Chapelle is considered among the highest achievements of the Rayonnant period of Gothic architecture.

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The Conciergerie was the home of the Kings of France from the 10th to 14th centuries and expanded and fortified on by Saint Louis and Philip the Fair.  Originally known as the Palais de la Cité.  The Great Hall was one of the largest in Europe; La Salle des Gens d’Armes (The Hall of the Soldiers) which was the lower level survives and served as the dinning hall for the over 2,000 servants at the palace.   The antechamber, Salle des Gardes (guard room), was used to serve the Great Hall above.   The Great Hall was where the king held his lit die justice, which was  a session of parliament in the king’s presence.  In 1358 Charles V moved the court to the nearby Louvre but the Conciergerie was still used to for administrative functions including the chancellery and the French parliament.  In 1391 part of the palace was converted into a prison.   Wealthy and influential persons were able to pay for a cell that came with a desk, bed, and materials for reading and writing.  Less well off people might pay for a pistoles; a rough bed and table or for the really poor would be put in a pailleux; a straw filled cell or an  oubliettes meaning forgotten places.

The Conciergerie is so named after the position of the Concierge, who was a very high ranking office, and could be considered the keeper of the palace when the king was away.

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The Louvre was built in 1190 as a fortress on the right bank of the Seine to protect the growing capital of France from Anglo-Norman forces. It remained a defensive structure until the mid-fourteenth century as the city grew beyond the city walls and the Louvre. In 1364 Raymond du Temple began rebuilding the fortress into a grand palace for Charles V but after the death of Charles VI the palace was left to rot. It would not be for another century before another french king lived there. Francis I tore down the medieval keep and constructed a renaissance palace on top. In 1660 the last surviving piece of the medieval palace was destroyed.

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Chateau Vincennes

Chateau Vicennes was first built as a hunting lodge for Louis VII about 1150 in the forest of Vincennes.  In the 13th century, Philip Augustus and Louis IX erected a more substantial manor: Louis IX is reputed to have departed from Vincennes on the crusade from which he did not return.  Two marriages took place here during the medieval period, Philippe III in 1274 and Philippe IV in 1284, and  Louis X in 1316, Philippe V in 1322 and Charles IV in 1328  died here.The donjon tower, 52 meters high, the tallest medieval fortified structure of Europe, was added by Philip VI of France, and work was started about 1337. The grand rectangular walls, were completed by the Valois circa 1410. The donjon served as a residence for the royal family, and its buildings are known to have once held the library and personal study of Charles V. Henry V of England died in the donjon in 1422 following the siege of Meaux.




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