I have a tendency to talk a lot. Just ask anyone who knows me. I like to talk. I like to talk so much that it’s one of the main reasons why I love being a tour guide. Not only do I get to talk all day long, but I get to tell stories while doing so. I love talking, but sometimes I talk too much. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in a story that before I know it my tour is behind schedule. This happens all the time, and to help keep me on track, I’ve memorized the location of every public clock along my tour routes. There are dozens of these clocks scattered throughout the city, but my personal favourite can be found on the Île de la Cité. It’s beautiful, it’s ornate, and it just so happens to be the oldest clock in Paris.
Often referred to as the Conciergerie Clock, this timepiece was built in 1370 by royal decree of King Charles V. It replaced a bell that was previously used to chime the hours, and was built to give Parisians a more precise way of keeping track of the time. Indeed, the Latin inscription above the clock face states that, “This mechanism, which divides time into perfectly equal twelve hours, helps you to protect justice and defend the law.” To hammer this point home, the clock is framed by two statues; one representing the law and one representing justice.
The Conciergerie Clock has been restored multiple times over the centuries, and in 2012 it was returned to full working order. Today, whenever I am giving a tour on the Île de la Cité, I always pause in front of this beautiful clock to appreciate its gilded splendour. And, if I’m being honest, to check to see if I’m running behind. It still happens more often than I’d like to admit…
FIND ME HINT
The oldest clock in Paris can be found on the tallest tower of the Conciergerie on the Île de la Cité. While you’re there, don’t forget to visit the Conciergerie itself. It houses some of the finest medieval architecture in the city, as well as the jail cell where Marie Antoinette spent the final months of her life.
Photo by PACHADAHU – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
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Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.