Place de la Concorde

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La Place de la Concorde

This is the largest square in the capital, measuring 1,200 ft long by 360 ft wide, built to celebrate  Louis XV’s his recovery from near fatal illness after his trip to Metz. The king’s architect, Ange-Jacques Gabriel, chose to build on the old marshland on purpose because he wanted to promote development of the west-side of the city and be close to the busy rue Saint Honoré. Gabriel was also commissioned to design the façades of the square’s two luxury hotels, the Hôtel de Crillon and the Hôtel de la Marine next door. Although the square was originially named Place Louis XV to honour the king, it became the theatre of the French Revolution in 1792 and was renamed Place de la Révolution up to 1795. This is where 1,119 people were guillotined, including Marie-Antoine and King Louis XVI as well as Danton, Lavoisier and Robespierre.

In 1836 Louis Philipp decided to put the Reign of Terror definitively in the past and revive the square. He started by replacing the statue of Louis XV riding a horse, which was destroyed during the Revolution. To keep the peace he chose a gift from Muhammad Ali of Egypt to thank Jean-François Champollion for deciphering the Egyptian hieroglyphs. The uncontroversal monument without any political connotations was a 3,300-year-old column, one of two from the entrance to Luxor Temple in Luxor (Thebes). Champollion was involved in the gift and chose the smallest but best preserved of the two. The 75 ft tall obelisk weighing no less than 230 tons was not easy to transport and a ship was specially built to bring it to Paris where it was finally raised in the centre of the square and still stands today.

Once the centre piece was established architect Jacques-Ignace Hittorff was commissioned to make the square more attractive. He drew inspiration from the Hôtel de la Marine by adding two fountains, the Maritime Fountain and the Fountain of the Rivers, in-line with the hotel’s decorative theme. He also added 8 statues to the corners of the octagonal square representing Brest, Rouen, Lille, Strasbourg, Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and Nantes, the most important French cities at the time.