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The Place de la Concorde is one of the major public squares in Parismarker, Francemarker. In fact, in terms of area, its 86,400 square metres make it the largest square in the French capital. It is located in the city's eighth arrondissementmarker, at the eastern end of the Champs-Élyséesmarker.

History

The Place was designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel in 1755 as a moat-skirted octagon between the Champs-Élysées to the west and the Tuileries Gardensmarker to the east. Filled with statues and fountains, the area was named Place Louis XV to honor the king at that time. The square showcased an equestrian statue of the king, which had been commissioned in 1748 by the city of Paris, sculpted mostly by Edmé Bouchardon, and completed by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle after the death of Bouchardon.

At the north end, two magnificent identical stone buildings were constructed. Separated by the rue Royalemarker, these structures remain among the best examples of that period's architecture. Initially, they served as government offices, and the eastern one is the French Naval Ministry. Shortly after its construction, the western building was made into the luxurious Hôtel de Crillonmarker (which still operates today) where Marie Antoinette spent afternoons relaxing and taking piano lessons. The hôtel served as the headquarters of the occupying German army during World War II.

During the French Revolution the statue of Louis XV was torn down and the area renamed "Place de la Révolution". In a grim reminder to the nobility of a gruesome past, when the "Place de Grèvemarker" was a site where the nobility and members of the bourgeoisie were entertained watching convicted criminals being dismembered alive, the new revolutionary government erected the guillotine there. The first notable to be executed at the Place de la concorde.Révolution was King Louis XVI, on January 21, 1793. Other important figures of France guillotined there, often in front of cheering crowds, were Queen Marie Antoinette, Madame Élisabeth, Charlotte Corday, Madame du Barry, Danton, Desmoulins, Lavoisier, Robespierre, Louis de Saint-Just and Olympe de Gouge.

The guillotine was most active during the "Reign of Terror", in the summer of 1794, when in a single month more than 1,400 people were executed. A year later, when the revolution was taking a more moderate course, the guillotine was removed from the square and its name was changed in token of national reconciliation.


The piazza was then renamed Place de la Concorde under the Directory (1795-1799) as a symbolic gesture of reconciliation after the turmoil of the French Revolution. It underwent a series of name changes in the nineteenth century, but the city eventually settled on Place de la Concorde.

Features



Obelisk

The center of the Place is occupied by a giant Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramses II. It is one of two the Egyptian government gave to the French in the nineteenth century. The other one stayed in Egypt, too difficult and heavy to move to France with the technology at that time. In the 1990s, President François Mitterrand gave the second obelisk back to the Egyptians.

The obelisk once marked the entrance to the Luxor Templemarker. The Ottoman viceroy of Egyptmarker, Mehmet Ali, offered the 3,300-year-old Luxormarker Obelisk to France in 1829. The obelisk arrived in Paris on December 21, 1833. Three years later, on October 25, 1836, King Louis-Philippe had it placed in the center of Place de la Concorde, where a guillotine used to stand during the Revolution.

The obelisk, a red granite column, rises high, including the base, and weighs over . Given the technical limitations of the day, transporting it was no easy feat — on the pedestal are drawn diagrams explaining the machinery that were used for the transportation. The obelisk is flanked on both sides by fountains constructed at the time of its erection on the Place.

Early morning on December 1, 1993, the French AIDS fighting society Act Up Paris carried out a fast and unwarned commando-style operation. A giant pink condom was unrolled over the whole monument.

Missing its original cap, believed stolen in the 6th century BC, the government of France added a gold-leafed pyramid cap to the top of the obelisk in 1998.

Without warning, in 2000 Frenchmarker urban climber Alain "Spiderman" Robert, using only his bare hands and climbing shoes on his feet and with no safety devices, scaled the obelisk all the way to the top.

The Fountains

The Fontaines de la Concorde. The two fountains in the Place de la Concorde were the most famous of the fountains built during the time of Louis-Philippe, and came to symbolize the fountains of Paris. They were designed by Jacques-Ignace Hittorff, a student of the[Neoclassical sculpture|neoclassical sculptor Charles Percier at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. The German-born Hittorff had served as the official Architect of Festivals and Ceremonies for the deposed King, and had spent two years studying the architecture and fountains of Italy.

Hittorff's two fountains were were on the theme of rivers and seas, in part because of their proximity to the Ministry of Navy on the Place de la Concorde, and to the Seinemarker. Their arrangement, on a north south axis aligned with the obelisk of Luxormarker, and the Rue Royale; and the form of the fountains themselves, were influenced by the fountains of Romemarker, particularly Piazza Navonamarker and the Piazza San Pietro, both of which had obelisks aligned with fountains.

Both fountains had the same form: a stone basin; six figures of tritons or naiades holding fish spouting water; six seated allegorical figures, their feet on the prows of ships, supporting the piedouche, or pedestal, of the circular vasque; four statues of different forms of genius, arts or crafts supporting the upper inverted upper vasque; whose water shot up and then cascaded down to the lower vasque and then the basin.

The north fountain was devoted to the Rivers, with allegorical figures representing the Rhone and the Rhinemarker, the arts of the harvesting of flowers and fruits, harvesting and grape growing; and the geniuses of river navigation, industry, and agriculture.

The south fountain, closer to the Seine, represented the seas, with figures representing the Atlantic and the Mediterranean; harvesting coral; harvesting fish; collecting shellfish; collecting pearls; and the geniuses of astronomy, navigation and commerce. (See also Fontaines de la Concorde and Fountains in Paris)

References in popular culture

In the Star Trek universe, the Place de la Concorde is the location of the offices of the President of the United Federation of Planets.

In The Devil Wears Prada, Andrea Sachs throws her phone into Hittorf's fountain?

References

Bibliography

  • Paris et ses fontaines de la Renaissance a nos jours, collection Paris et son patrimoine, directed by Beatrice d'Andia, Paris 1995


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