The Place Vendôme is one of the most famous and luxury squares in Paris and this, since its construction. Indeed, at the instigation of Louis XIV, Jules Hardouin Mansart famous for being the architect of the Palace of Versailles, creates in 1699 the blueprints of this rectangle square typical of the classic French town planning. The Sun King wishes a place that embodies and honors the monarchy and his reign in the heart of Paris.
An impressive statue of Louis XIV riding his horse and sculpted by Girardon rises in its center. Later, Mansart has the buildings surrounding the Place Vendôme built according to a strict plan to which the buildings owners have to submit. We must believe he did well since most of the façades of these hotel particuliers are now listed as historic monuments.
During the French Revolution, the Place Vendôme is renamed Place des Piques [the Square of Pikes] and the horse statue of Louis XIV is destroyed and replaced in 1810 by the Vendôme Column inspired by Rome Trajane Column. Erected by Napoléon in tribute to the battle of Austerlitz, this impressive column, with on top a statue of Napoléon as Caesar, is realized by Antoine-Denis Chaudet. It’s made of bronze with 1,200 melted canons obtained from the enemies!
Under the July Monarchy, a new statue of the emperor as a caporal is made by Charles Emile Seurre. In 1863, Napoléon III has it replaced by a duplicate of the first statue sculpted by Auguste Dumont. It’s this statue we can still see today overhanging the Place Vendôme. Yet, this statue has known more than turbulent events.
As a matter of fact, during the Paris Commune in 1871, the column is put down by the Communards who saw it as a symbol of Napoléon’s barbaric and militarism, under the ovation of the Parisians. Among the guilty communards, anarchist painter Gustave Courbet who has been severely punished to restore it at his own expenses! Dumont’s statue finds its spot back in 1873 and never leaves it again.
Since the Second Empire, the Place Vendôme has became the place of luxury and Parisian elegance, extending the Rue de la Paix – very luxurious itself. Big names of jewelry, leather goods and haute couture took over the place and it’s common to walk by windows displays watches with 4 zeros.
The Hotel de Bourvallais at 13 Place Vendôme is now housing the Ministry of Justice. The #15 houses one of the most beautiful and famous palaces in the French capital: Le Ritz. And its at 12 Place Vendome, at Hôtel Baudard de Saint-James that Chopin died of tuberculosis in 1849.
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