Vendôme Column and Place in Paris. France

Place Vendôme

Place Vendôme is one of the five “royal squares” of Paris, which is spread out in the historic center of the city, north of the Tuileries gardens and east of the church of Saint Mary Magdalene. It was erected during the reign of Louis XIV and was intended to house the equestrian statue of the Sun King, the mint, the Academy, the library and luxury mansions. Vendôme Square was named after the palace once owned by César de Bourbon, the illegitimate son of King Henry IV the Great of France and ancestor of the Vendômes.

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Highlights

The octagonal square is surrounded by a uniform, classicist-style building and looks very monumental. Here stands the famous Hotel Ritz, in whose rooms stayed many famous politicians, writers and actors. On Place Vendôme there is also a mansion from the balcony of which Georges Jacques Danton in 1792 declared the creation of the first republic.

Tourists come to the historic Place Vendôme to admire the tall column topped with a statue of Napoleon and to take memorable photos against the facades of the palaces. Some come here to shop in the luxurious jewelry stores, considered the best in Paris. Place Vendôme is popular with designers and there are several fashion boutiques.

History of the construction of the Place Vendôme

In 1680 the palace, owned by the influential and wealthy Duke of Vendôme, was purchased by the French king. The court architect of Louis XIV, Jules Ardouin-Mansard, designed the project, and in 1699 a spacious square was laid out on the site of the palace building. On it, at the request of the king, his equestrian statue was flaunting. This monument was constructed under the project of the French sculptor Francois Girardon and stood on Place Vendôme for exactly 100 years – until 1792.

The Sun King spent a lot of money on the reconstruction of his beloved Versailles. In addition, substantial sums from the treasury went to the constant wars that France waged with other European countries. Louis XIV had no money to continue the construction of Place Vendôme, so for a long time around the statue of the French monarch had only the facades of buildings, and the space behind them was empty.

To continue construction, it was necessary that someone bought the land behind the decorative facades, and the proceeds could be used to build new houses. But at first there were no willing to invest their own money in the improvement of the Place Vendôme.

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The solution was found by John Law, a Scottish financier, who proposed to reform the circulation of money. He created a bank which would issue banknotes, bought the land around the Place Vendôme and began to sell it for paper money. There was no shortage of buyers, and construction resumed.

By 1720 all the houses around the square had been built. They were single-type buildings decorated with arcades and columns of Corinthian order. In their attics, Jules Ardouin-Mansard provided additional rooms with beveled ceilings. The windows in the attics were not concealed, as was the custom at the time, but instead were decorated with exquisite moldings. This is how attics were invented. In addition, the architect created facades of buildings consisting of three parts. The three-part system he found later became the basis for all Parisian buildings.

The famous buildings on Place Vendôme

Number 11 on Place Vendôme houses today the Ministry of Justice and the French Chancellery. The building once belonged to a stockbroker named Poisson. He was a crook who did shady deals and ended up in the Bastille. In order to be released, he was forced to sell the mansion which belonged to him to the authorities of Paris.

House No.12 next door was occupied by the Russian ambassador’s mission in the 1930s-40s, and in 1849 the famous Polish composer and virtuoso pianist Frédéric Chopin lived there.

A marble meter was hung at No. 13 in 1795. It was a new measure of length for Parisians, so the Parisian authorities wanted to introduce it to the inhabitants of the city.

One of the most chic hotels in Paris, the Ritz, occupies house number 15 on Place Vendôme. It received its name in honor of its founder Cesar Ritz. This elite hotel has always differed by the magnificence of interiors and the highest level of service, so many world celebrities stayed there.

Austrian doctor and healer Franz Anton Mesmer lived in house number 16. He believed that the planets had a therapeutic effect on people and created the doctrine of “animal magnetism” or mesmerism. The healer’s patients were prominent French aristocrats, and he managed to make a lot of money. In 1784, the healer’s activities were examined by two scientific commissions and found to be fraudulent. For this reason, Mesmer was forced to leave Paris and fled to England.

The owners of houses number 17 and 19 were members of the wealthy family of bankers Crozas, who during the reign of Louis XIV were considered the richest men in France. Pierre Crozat (1661-1740) managed to collect a collection of 400 paintings, 19 thousand drawings and 1.5 thousand carved stones. The private collection at Place Vendôme was considered one of the best in Paris. It is noteworthy that the Russian Empress Catherine II managed to buy most of the paintings belonging to Pierre Crozat. She bought back the canvases from his heirs, and the intermediary in the transaction was a French writer Denis Diderot. Today famous paintings by Raphael, Giorgione, Rubens, Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto, Van Dyck and Murillo grace the Hermitage collection in St. Petersburg.

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Vendôme Column

On the site of the monument to the king overthrown by the French Revolution rises another unusual monument. This column is 44.3 meters high. In 1806 Napoleon wanted to see a majestic monument in the center of the French capital to commemorate the triumphs of his army. Place for the “Column of Victories” was chosen as the Place Vendôme, and its prototype was the famous Trajan’s Column, which adorns the Roman Forum.

The Roman column of Carrara marble was 38 meters high. Napoleon wanted a taller and more majestic monument in Paris. The new column was erected in stone and covered with bas-reliefs cast from the captured guns that Napoleon’s army had recaptured from the Russian and Austrian armies. The bronze bas-reliefs are arranged in a spiral from the base to the top of the monument and were made according to sketches by Jean-Baptiste Leper. The 425 bas-reliefs record the actions of Napoleon’s troops during the victorious campaign of 1805.

Today the column on Place Vendôme is crowned by the third statue of Napoleon. It depicts the emperor in a short Roman cloak. On his head is a laurel wreath, and in his hands Napoleon holds a sword and a globe with the winged goddess of victory. The French sculptor Auguste Dumont (1801-1884) is the author of this expressive monument. Below the statue is a rectangular platform with a railing.

How to get there

Place Vendôme is located in the historic center of the French capital, next to the Opéra metro station, where Paris Metro lines 3, 7 and 8 intersect. Not far from the square is also a station “Tuileries”, through which the branch 1 passes.

Place Vendome in Paris

Place Vendôme in Paris is a whole block of interesting buildings. They surround the square, in the middle of which stands a huge column. It is known as the Vendome Column or Austerlitz Column.

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The square appeared in the city during the time of Louis XIV. Once this place was the estate of the Duke of Vendome, son of King Henry IV. That’s why the square came to be called Place Vendôme (sometimes Place Vendôme).

Place Vendôme

Place Vendôme

Where is it

Place Vendôme is located almost in the center of Paris 3 kilometers east of the legendary Eiffel Tower.

Geographic coordinates 48.867460, 2.329441

Place Vendôme. View from above

View of Place Vendôme from above

A bit of history

The entire block was designed by the architect with the famous name of Jean Ardouin-Mansard. His idea was to construct a so-called royal square. It was a classic square of buildings with a statue of the monarch on a horse in the center. The construction began with the erection of a monument. It featured a huge pompous wig. A model of the sculpture is still kept in the Russian Hermitage. Only after that began to build up the perimeter of the square with buildings.

The construction was financed by public funds, and at a certain stage the allocation of funds ceased. Mansar had to urgently reduce the cost of the project. He did it with great ingenuity. Firstly, he changed the shape of the square by cutting corners, and secondly, he replaced the attics with living floors with a ceiling in the shape of the roof. In short, Mansard invented a new architectural element – those famous mansards.

During the Great French Revolution the statue of the autocrat was mercilessly dealt with, it was thrown off its pedestal and melted down. During the reign of Napoleon I, on an empty pedestal a column was erected to testify to his military victories. At birth it was named Austerlitz, but then it was renamed.

Financiers and other citizens of decent means began to settle in the hotels of Place Vendôme. On the same square for a time, the Russian Empire maintained ambassadorial mansions.

Place Vendôme

Mansions

There are several buildings on Place Vendôme that are curious. Mainly those to whom they belonged at different times.

For example, house No. 12 was once owned by Baron Baudard de Saint James, treasurer of the French navy. He is remembered for the gift he made to Queen Marie-Antoinette, a necklace worth 800,000 francs. Just this building housed the Russian embassy for ten years between 1839 and 1849.

Frédéric Chopin lived in this mansion a few months before his death. For the last hundred years the house has belonged to the jewelers Chaumet. It is a famous family name. A member of the dynasty made a crown for Napoleon and several other famous pieces.

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House No. 13 went down in history because just on its facade was strengthened by a reference meter made of marble. The inhabitants of the capital were thus accustomed to the new measure of length. The first owner of the mansion was Lhuillier, and later the Ministry of Justice was located there.

Immediately after the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, No. 14 housed the Embassy of the Russian Empire.

No. 15 is the famous Ritz Hotel, one of the most sumptuous hotels in Paris. Scott Fitzgerald and Princess Diana stayed here, as well as other famous people.

And in No. 16, for a long time, lived Franz-Anton Mesmer. He was of Austrian origin, and became famous for his idea of so-called animal magnetism. In the eighties of the eighteenth century, his teachings were very fashionable. The entire Parisian elite were treated for nervous disorders with his help. Mesmer then became extremely rich, but failed to stop in time and demanded a castle and a lot of money. Such hubris was not forgiven by the French. A government commission instantly organized quickly declared him a charlatan and set out to take repressive measures against the insolent healer. Having been warned by his admirers, Mesmer managed to escape to England in time, where he continued to practice his method. Curiously enough, in Russia at the time also succumbed to the ideas of “animal magnetism.

The Column of the Vendôme

In the houses under numbers 17 and 19 lived representatives of the family dynasty of bankers Kroz. They are remembered for their descendants because they gathered an outstanding collection of paintings by the best masters of Europe. Catherine II bought it from them. Now it is kept in the Hermitage. Among the paintings collected by Crozes, there are paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Raphael and Titian.

And in house No. 23 lived also a kind of inventor. It was Scotsman John Law, the creator of the world’s first pyramid scheme. He founded in 1725 the “Indian Company,” which was to develop the American possessions of France, and arranged for the trading of its shares. The shareholders included respectable men and even the then head of the kingdom. Shares were issued in insane quantities and proved to be unsupported by anything. But skillful advertising attracted an insane amount of people to them. It ended badly. The people lost their money, but Lowe successfully absconded with the money.

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The Vendome Column (aka Austerlitz Column)

The Column of the Place Vendôme is perhaps the most notable structure. It was made in the image of the famous Trajan’s Column in Rome, but the Austerlitz column exceeds it by as much as 14 meters. The height of the column is 44 meters, and that’s without the statue of Napoleon on its top.

The Column of the Vendôme

Vendome Column

The column is made of bronze, which was melted down from the Austrian and Russian guns. They, in turn, were the spoils of the Battle of Austerlitz.

An interesting fact – it took 1250 guns to make the Vendome Column.

On the trunk of the column installed 76 bas-reliefs depicting scenes of military campaigns of Napoleon’s army in 1805.

Bas-reliefs of the Vendôme Column Bas-reliefs of the upper part of the column

The Column of Austerlitz was placed on a pedestal of marble that was left over from a former royal statue. The pedestal is lavishly decorated with bronze images of weapons and other spoils of war captured by Napoleon’s army.

Pedestal of the Column of Vendôme

The pedestal of the Vendome Column

The column was built in August 1810. Originally it was crowned by a statue of Napoleon in a Roman toga. But in 1814 the Allies, who defeated the French army, took it down and melted it down into a monument to Henry IV, which was installed on the New Bridge. The column was adorned with a white flag for a long time. Twenty years later, King Louis-Philippe ordered the statue of Napoleon to be reinstalled atop the column, only now it was a “little corporal.

The Paris Commune, which heavily thinned the monuments of Paris, did not neglect the Vendôme Column. The head of the Art Commission, the artist Gustave Courbet declared it a symbol of false glory and insisted on its demolition. The column was carefully dumped in the muck to the hooting of the crowd. And then after the fall of the Commune Courbet was ordered to return everything as it was, and at his own expense. The artist went broke raising money. But the column was put back in place.

Later the statue of Napoleon in imperial toga was put on it again. The column was not touched again. And the statue of “little corporal” was taken away and placed near the House of Invalids.

Statue of Napoleon on the Column of Vendôme

Statue of Napoleon atop the Vendome Column

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