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Temple (Paris)

The Paris Temple
Paris, France
A view of the Grosse Tour-circa 1795, Ecole Française 18th century.
Type Medieval fortress
Site information
Condition Demolished
Site history
Built mid-13th century
Built by Knights Templar
Demolished 1808
Events French Revolution
The Temple area in 1734 - detail of the Turgot map of Paris.

The Temple was a medieval prison during the French Revolution in the late 18th century, and then fully demolished by the mid 19th century.


  • Knights Templar 1
  • French Revolution 2
  • Destruction 3
  • In literature 4
  • References 5

Knights Templar

The Knights Templar began in the 12th century, constructing a fort first in Le Marais. In the 13th century, a new fortress was built in what is now the 3rd arrondissement of Paris as their European headquarters. The enclosure, called enclos du Temple, originally featured a number of buildings important to the running of the Order, and included a church and a massive turreted keep known as Grosse Tour (great tower), and a smaller tower called Tour de César (Caesar's Tower).

The location of the towers is drawn on the floor in front of the town hall, rue Eugene Spuller. The heavy doors of the Grosse Tour still exist and are kept at Château de Vincennes whose great keep, attributed to Raymond du Temple, is speculated to have been inspired by the nearby Templar fortress.[1]

French Revolution

The Temple is notorious for having been the French royal family's jail at the time of the Revolution. Members of the royal family imprisoned at the Temple's tower were:

  • King Louis XVI, from 13 August 1792 to 21 January 1793, then he was taken to be guillotined at the Place de la Révolution;
  • Marie Antoinette, from 13 August 1792 to 1 August 1793 in the Temple's tower, then she was taken to the Conciergerie, from where she eventually was also taken to the guillotine;
  • Madame Élisabeth, who stayed for 21 months at the tower before being taken on 9 May 1794 to the Conciergerie and guillotined the following day;
  • Louis XVII, from 13 August 1792 until his death of tuberculosis at the tower on 8 June 1795, at the age of ten;
  • Princess Marie-Thérèse, who stayed at the tower for three years and four months before being sent into exile.


In 1808 the Temple having become a place of pilgrimage for royalists, Napoleon ordered its demolition, which took two years. Remnants were demolished around 1860 under orders from Napoleon III.

Today its location is a station of the Paris Metro, serving the carreau du temple (covered market) and the Palais de Justice (Courthouse) of the third arrondissement.

Surviving doors from the Grosse Tour, now found in the Château de Vincennes

In literature

Louis XVI at the Tour du Temple, by Jean-François Garneray (1755-1837).
Marie Antoinette, in the Temple Tower, attributed to Kucharsky

In Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series, Jack Aubrey, Stephen Maturin and a young Lithuanian soldier, Jagiello, are held prisoner at the Temple Prison during its demolition in The Surgeon's Mate.


  1. ^ Lorentz, Phillipe; Dany Sandron (2006). Atlas de Paris au Moyen Âge. Paris: Parigramme. p. 238 pp.  

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