Place de la Concorde is the largest square available in Paris. The square is estimated at 8.64 hectares large or 21.3 acres. The place is located in the eight arrondissement, at the eastern end of the Champs-Elysees. The place is famous as a public square and becomes one of most popular tourist destinations.
History of Place de la Concorde
Place de la Concorde was originally built surrounding a statue. It was a statue of King Louis XV which was sculpted by Edmé Bouchardon in 1748 and finished by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle after Bouchardon’s death to celebrate the King’s recovery from a serious illness. Therefore, the square was originally named Place Louis XV to honor the king. The famous square surrounding the statue was built later by architect Jacques-Ange Gabriel, King Louis XV’s architect.
The construction of the square surrounding the statue began in 1754. It took nine years to finish in 1763. The square itself was actually constructed in the shape of octagon, bordered by large moats.
There were also two buildings constructed at the north end of the square. Both buildings were identical and made of the same stone material. The eastern building served as the French Naval Ministry while the western building served as the house of the Duc d’Aumont. Later, Comte de Crillon purchased the building and stayed there with his family.
French Revolution which took place in 1789 brought great change to square. In 1792, the original statue of King Louis XV was replaced with another large statue called Liberte or Freedom, together in the spirit with French Revolution. The name of the square was also changed into Place de la Revolution.
The square then became the witness of the bloodiest and most historical turn point of France as a country. A guillotine was installed and used to execute more than 1300 people including Louis XVI whom was executed on January 21, 1793, Marie Antoinette, Princess Elisabeth of France, Georges Danton, Madame du Barry, Camille Desmoulins, and Robespierre. Much blood was shed on the square so that a rumor says that a herd of cattle once wouldn’t cross the square due to the strong scent of blood. The time when 1,300 people were executed in a month was called the “Reign of Terror.”
After the revolution over, the name of the square was then changed several times. First, it was named Place de la Condorde, as it is today, as a sign of reconciliation after the turmoil of French Revolution. However, the name then was changed again several times into Place Louis XV, Place Louis XVI, and Place de la Chartre before the name became Place de la Concorde again in the nineteenth century.
An obelisk of 3200 years old was given by the Viceroy of Egypt, Mehemet Ali, to Louis Philippe in the 19th century. The historical obelisk was taken from the temple of Ramses II at Thebes. It is 23 meters tall, pink in color, and installed at the center of the square. Hieroglyphs depicting the reign of Ramses II and Ramses III were all over the obelisk which is nicknamed Cleopatra’s Needle or L’aiguille de Cléopâtre in its original language.
In 1998, the France government added a gold-leafed pyramid on the top of the obelisk as a replacement of its missing original cap which was believed to be stolen in the 6th century BC.
The obelisk in Place de la Concorde once again became headline when Alain “Spiderman” Robert, the famous climber who has climbed tall buildings all over the world bare hands without safety devices, successfully climbed the obelisk all the way to the top in 2000.
Place de la Concorde Today
You can still feel the atmosphere of the 1700s when you visit the square. The ground is still original, made of tarmac and cement. The pink obelisk is standing solidly at the center of the square, replacing the bloody guillotine from the French Revolution era.
Beside the obelisk, there are also two fountains installed in the square. Both were designed by Jacques-Ignace Hittorf and placed on the northern and southern part of the square. The north fountain was dedicated to the River of Rhone and celebrates the art of navigation, industry, and agriculture. The south fountain, which is closer to the Seine River, was dedicated to the Atlantic and Mediterranean Seas and celebrates the magnificence of astronomy, navigation, and commerce.
Before the fountains were installed, Hittorf also created eight statues placed at each corner of the octagonal square, each representing the eight French cities of Lille, Lyon, Strasbourg, Marseille, Bordeaux, Nantes, Brest, and Rouen.
Visiting Place de la Concorde
Since it is an open square, you can visit Place de la Concorde at any time. There is no entrance fee too since it is a public place. To get there, you can take Metro line 1, 8, or 12 and stop at Concorde station.