Place de la Concorde
The Place de la Concorde, is the largest place in Paris, it is situated along the Seine and separates the Tuilerie Gardens from the beginning of the Champs Elysees. Architect Jacques Ange Gabriel, started construction on behalf of Louis XV, in 1754, and was eventually completed in 1763. It was then named the Place Louis XV. The place was constructed in the form of octagon bordered by large moats, which have now long disappeared. The place was constructed to hold an equestrian statue of Louis XV that was commissioned by the city in 1748.
In 1792, during the French revolution, the statue of Louis XV was replaced by a another large statue called Liberte or freedom, and the square was renamed the Place de la Revolution. A guillotine was installed at the centre of the square and during the following couple of years, many people were beheaded here, including King Louis XVI, Marie Antionette, and eventually the revolutionary Robespierre. After the revolution the square was renamed several times, Place de la Concorde, Place Louis XV, Place Louis XVI, Place de la Chartre, until 1830, when it was once again named the Place de la Concorde.
At the north end, two magnificent identical stone buildings were constructed. Separated by the rue Royale, these remain among the best examples of architecture from that period. Initially they served as government offices, with the eastern one being the home of the French Naval Ministry. Shortly after its construction, the western building was made into the luxurious Hotel de Crillon, which is still operating today, this is here that Marie Antoinette spent afternoons relaxing and taking piano lessons. The hotel also served as the headquarters of the occupying German army during World War II.
Erected At each corner of the octagonal square stands statues that each represent a French city. Bordeaux, Brest, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Rouen and Strasbourg. They were installed in 1836 by Jacob Ignaz Hittorf, while he was redesigning the Place de la Concorde. That same year a bronze fountain, called La fontaine des Mers was added to the square. Later in 1839 a second fountain, the Elevation of the Maritime fountain, was installed. This fountain, like the first, was designed by Hittorf.
In the 19th century the 3200 years old obelisk from the temple of Ramses II at Thebes, now modern day Luxor, was installed at the centre of the Place de la Concorde. It is a 23 meters tall monolith in pink granite and weighs approximately 230 tons. In 1831, it was offered by the Viceroy of Egypt to Louis Philippe. It was only one of 3 obelisks offered by the Viceroy, but only one ended up being transported to Paris. The obelisk is covered with hieroglyphs picturing the reign of pharaohs Ramses II and Ramses III. Pictures on the pedestal describe the transportation to Paris and its installation at the square in 1836. One story that is often told about the installation of the obelisk, is that during the final stage of its erection, it was found that due to the placement of the winches, they had met there mechanical limits before the obelisk was fully upright, then a voice out of an estimated 200,000 onlookers, shouted, "moisten the ropes". It was, it is claimed, a sailor who Knew that hemp ropes would shrink while drying.