This is a huge complex of buildings, including the Palais de Justice itself, the Sainte-Chapelle, and the Conciergerie. On this same site, the Roman rulers had their administrative and military headquarters; the kings of the Merovingian dynasty followed their example, and later the Capetians erected a chapel and a keep here. In the 13th century, St Louis IX built the Sainte-Chapelle and in the following century, Philippe the Fair had the Conciergerie palace constructed. In 1358, after the bloody revolts of the Parisians headed by Etienne Marcel, Charles V decided to move his residence to the Louvre and leave the palace here to the Parliament which used it to house the supreme court of justice of the kingdom.
In later times, the buildings were repeatedly damaged by fires: in 1618 the Grande Salle was burnt, in 1630 the tall spire of the Sainte-Chapelle, in 1737 the Debtors’ Court, and in 1776 the Marchande Gallery.
The judicial system, which until then had remained intact, was overturned by the Revolution. The new courts were established in the old building, which was given the name of Palais de Justice (Palace of Justice). Important works of restoration carried out under the direction of Viollet-le-Duc gave the building its present-day appearance. Facing Boulevard du Palais is its monumental facade. On the right, the Tour de I’Horloge, or Clock Tower, dating from the 14th century.
The clock dates from 1334, while the reliefs are by Germain Pilon ( 1585 ). After this comes the facade of the Civil Court, 14th-century in style though it was built in 1853. In the center of the facade, a high wrought-iron gateway ( 1783 – 1785 ) leads into the May Courtyard, built-in 1786 by Antoine and Desmaisons. From here, through a vaulted passageway on the left, one reaches the Sainte-Chapelle.