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© Irene. Not for download. Please, visit Graphics by Irene if you like this graphic.


© Irene. Not for download. Please, visit Graphics by Irene if you like this graphic. 

Place Vendôme

© Irene. Not for download.

The Austerlitz column - Colonne de la Grande Armée


"Louis XIV, conscious that Paris was lacking public building, decided the imposing plan of the square, in 1685. The King could not do less than his ancestor – Henri IV at Place Dauphine, nor than his father Louis XIII at Place Royale (Place des Vosges). Jules Hardouin-Mansart was put in charge of designing this gigantic project. The mansion of the Duke of Vendôme was bought – hence the name of the square. It was razed to the ground and Mansart erected the facades with their arcades, in an elegant and magnificent harmony. But soon, the King had other financial concerns in mind – war and above all the construction of Versailles .

The huge construction site was therefore sold to the city of Paris, which turned out to be unable to run such a large-scale real estate affair. The fiasco was total. However, the glory of the King was to remain intact, and the statue by Girardon, equestrian and colossal was unveiled with great pomp in front of empty facades.

The city of Paris, in a praiseworthy attempt, had sold some locations to financiers, attracted by these extravagant residences. But for twenty years, the square was half asleep.

The regency of the Duke of Orleans replaced the Great King's reign and the Government left Versailles for Paris; this is when John Law and his paper money appear. He buys back more than half the square. The speculation that he creates brings along to Place Vendôme, financiers delighted to buy such beautiful residences for so cheap a price. Behind Mansart's facades, everyone erects his own mansion, following the height and depth imposed by the norms. Place Vendôme, in its splendour, was born again and its prestige has not come to an end yet.

On August 16, 1792, the equestrian statue of louis XIV was destroyed, and the square was given the name of "Pikes' square". However, out of habit the square is still called Place Vendôme, even then. The name is officially used on the accession of Napoléon Ist.

The Austerlitz victory ending the wonderful two-month-campaign, which had been paid as a two-year-service to all soldiers. The Emperor wanted to justly reward the Great Army, erecting, with the bronze of the 1200 cannons taken from the Austrians and the Russians, a column dedicated to the glory of our soldiers. According to one of the numerous projects that had not been retained, the cannons were not melted, but soldered end to end in an ingenious way, the whole forming an odd pyramid-shape crowned by an imperial eagle. To these fancy projects, the Emperor, still enamoured of Antiquity, prefered a nobler drawing, inspired by the Trajane column.

This monument, started on August 25, 1806, was finished on August 5, 1810, under Denon, Lepère, and Gondouin's leadership (architects). The total height of the column is 44 meters. From its base, built on the site of the pedestal of the statue of Louis XIV, it is made of freestone covered with slab bronze. They are separated by a cordon on which is inscribed the action represented on the painting above. On the four facades of the pedestal, arms of war and military uniforms are reproduced. At each angles these ornaments are supported by a bronze eagle nearly weighting 250 kilograms.

The tower of the column represents the brilliant feats of arms of the 1805 campaign, from the departure from Boulogne camp to the Austerlitz battle. On the inside of the monument there is a spiral staircase wiyh an entry on one of the facades of the pedestal, in front of the Tuileries garden. This spiral staircase leads to a gallery.

On the column there was a statue of Napoléon by Chaudet, member of the "Institut de France ". The Emperor was wearing the sceptre and the diadem. In 1814, the Russians wanted to knock down the monument; in spite of their efforts, the bronze stayed still, and only the statue of the Emperor was pulled down. Melted shortly after, it was used for the statue of Henri IV, restored on the Pont-Neuf platform.

The total weight of the bronzes of the column of Place Vendôme, according to the information given by Lepère, one of the architects, is 251,367 Kilograms, and it costed 1,975,417 Francs.

On his return, Louis XVIII had a colossal lis flower erected on top of the column. These back and forth movements were not over; under the July Monarchy, Marie Seurre replaced the Emperor on his pedestal, by the familiar figure of the little corporal wearing the frock coat and the famous hat. Then, Napoléon III ordered Dumont a nobler statue of his uncle, then sporting the Roman Emperor armor. In 1871, painter Courbet, who had been called by the Commune to preside over the Commission for the safegard of the Museum treasuries, did not hesitate, despite his title, to order the demolition of the monument. It was knocked down on a dungheap : the painter had vowed a personal enmity against this bronze machine, against which he said, "one always bumps at night , on the way home from the cafe ". In 1875, the monument was stood up again, and the imperial statue restored. Courbet was then condemned to a 323 000 and 68 centimes fine, corresponding to the price of the reconstruction.

Whatever the glory of this "bronze pillar done by Napoléon" (Victor Hugo), the illegible bas reliefs, and the discrepancy with the proportions of the place were criticized. The square, intimate as much as harmonious, had been imagined as a sort of enclosed lounge , where balls were sometimes organized. The genious of Louis XIV's town planners was such, that it only took, under the First Empire, the opening of Castiglione and de la Paix streets, to integrate the square into the urban life of the capital."


© Irene. Not for download.

That's me at Place Vendôme.





© Jaime. Not for download. Please, visit Comet Creations if you like this graphic.

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This page was created on: February 28, 2002.
Last updated on: July 8, 2008.
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© Jaime. Not for download. Please, visit Comet Creations if you like this graphic.


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