What lies behind the Place de la Concorde, Paris?

Jul 31 11:09 2009 Mike Greaves Print This Article

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The Place de la Concorde is the largest square in Paris,Guest Posting with a long history concealed behind its beautiful sculptures, fountains and obelisk. This square was constructed in honor of Louis XV, where a statue of the king on horseback was erected at its centre, serving as an element of junction and décor. This statue designated the two main axes, North and South with the perspective of the Rue Royal and a bridge that had been planned, East and West with the perspective of the ‘Jardins de Tuileries’ and the Champs Elysées’. This was an architectural feat for the period it was constructed in and was considered as a great work of art. Unfortunately the statue was destroyed during the French Revolution and at its place a terrible guillotine was set up, used to decapitate over 2,800 heads of the ‘antique regime’ members, amongst which were Marie-Antoinette, Danton et Robespierre. At the end of the French Revolution the square finally regained credit for its beauty and was re-baptised ‘Place de la Concorde’, (of peace), the obelisk was later erected at the place of the missing statue. In 1937 the square was classifiedas ahistoric monument.

The Place de la Concorde is situated in the 8th arrondissement along the Seine and separates the ‘Jardins des Tuileries from the beginning of the Champs Elysées. The gigantic obelisk in pink granite that rises in its middle is 3300 years old, and was given as a gift to the French Republic in 1831, by the viceroy of Egypt, who took it from the Temple of Thèbes in Luxor.

Around the square stand eight statues representing eight different French cities, Brest, Rouen, Lille, Strasbourg, Lyon, Bordeaux, Nantes and Marseille. At the North end and South end of the square lie the ‘Fontaine des Fleuves’ (Fountain of the Rivers) and the ‘Fontaine des Mers’ (Fountain of the Seas). Ornate gigantic baths of polished Saint-Nom stone with a marble-like effect form the fountains. The figures and ornaments were made in metal moulds and painted using a specific method to imitate bronze, with green, dark brown and golden hues.

On the North perimeter of the square stand two imposing twin buildings built by the architect Ange-Jacque Gabriel. One is the ‘Hôtel de la Marine’ and the other is the elegant ‘Hôtel de Crillon’ one of the grand hotels in Paris, once mansion of the count of Crillon.

A curious but dramatic event took place on May 30th 1770 at the square, during the marriage festivities of the Dauphin, heir to the throne of the King of France and the duchess Marie-antoinette of Austria. As fireworks were set off in order to liven up the celebration, a fire broke out killing 133 during the panic that ensued the breakout. This bad omen was to be the precursor of an unhappy marriage.

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Mike Greaves
Mike Greaves

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