Guide Place de la Concorde - 8th arrondissement of Paris

The expansive, 8-hectare Place de la Concorde is the largest public square in Paris. Located in the 8th arrondissement, it is at the eastern end of the Champs-Elysees. It lies adjacent to the Tuileries Gardens and borders the Seine to the southwest. Historically, it is remembered as a key site of the French Revolution: around 2,000 were guillotined here, including Marie Antoinette and many of "internal enemies" of the French uprising.

Picture of one of the gated entrances to Place de la Concorde in Paris

History of Place de la Concorde

The square was designed in 1755 by Ange-Jacques Gabriel, the most prominent French architect of his generation. Origionnally after being built it was named Place Louis XV, after the then king. Its centrepiece was an equestrian statue of the monarch, which had been commissioned in 1748 by the city and sculpted by Edme Bouchardon and Jean-Baptiste Pigalle. Now, of course, it's nowhere to be seen, having been consumed by the Revolution in 1793. A new monument, known as Libertie, took its place and the square was re-named Place de la Revolution.

Picture from Place de la Concorde looking down to the magnificent Arc de Triomphe inclduing a shadow of the obelisk.

Beheadings in Place de la Concorde

In what can either be regarded as a cruel twist of fate considering its name or an au fait blow of poetic justice, the first notable to be executed here was none other than Louis XVI, the grandson of the Place's honoree. He was followed by the likes of Madame Elisabeth, Madame du Barry, Lavoisier, Danton, Robespierre, and many others. In the summer of 1794, during The Reign of Terror it is recorded that over 1,000 people were killed here in a single month.

Monuments Tell You Where You are in Paris - The Egyptian Obelisk

In the subsequent years the square underwent several name changes, before officially settling on its current moniker in 1830. The same decade saw the installment of what was to be the site's new centrepiece, the 23-metre-tall, 250-tonne pink granite Egyptian obelisk. This immense monument dates from 1300 BC and was a gift from the viceroy of Egypt, Mehemet Ali. Its transportation from Luxor to Paris was no mean feat in the age, and after arriving its base was detailed with diagrams documenting its journey and erection.

The Obelisk in the Place de la Concord leaves you in no doubt where you are in Paris!
The Statues

The obelisk was just part of the square's renovation, which continued until 1846 under the supervision of Jacob Ignaz Hittorf. In 1836 Hittorf added statues representing French cities in every corner of the Place's octagonal layout, commending Bordeaux, Brest, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Rouen and Strasbourg. Two bronze fountains, La Fontaine des Mers and Maritime Elevation, were added shortly afterwards. One pair of ornaments to escape the destruction of the Revolution was Guillaume Coustou the Elder's magnificent white-marble Horses of Marly. Copies still flank the Champs-Elysees entrance; the originals now reside in the Louvre.

Map of Place de la Concodrd. Creative Commons licenced image from wikipedia.
What is Near to Place de la Concord

Although the square's new embellishments were intentionally non-political, its governmental ties remained. The National Assembly is across the river, the Naval Ministry is on the square itself, and the Palais de l'Elysee and the American Embassy are just around the corner. Adjacent sites worth visiting include the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, a museum of contemporary art that was once Napoleon III's indoor tennis court; the Musee de l'Orangerie in the Tuileries Gardens; and the Hotel Crillon, which has been open for business since before the Revolution, when Mary Antoinette took piano lessons there.

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