In the summer 2019, the Place de la Nation will become a square-garden. An island of greenery waited resolutely by the 11th and 12th arrondissements inhabitants. Largely promoting bicycles and pedestrians, the square will see its traffic jam reduced and the central rink will be extended and filled with plants (dear local inhabitants, you can see works are going slowly but surely). But if in addition to be interested in the future of this lovely Parisian square we were also interested in its past and story?
Before being called the Place de la Nation it was called the Place du Trône [Square of the Throne]. It was named after the throne set on the square back in 1660 to celebrate the return of Louis XIV and Maria Teresa of Spain – whom the Sun King married in Saint-Jean-de-Luz. To celebrate this so royal event, minister Colbert organizes an architecture contest won by Claude Perrault.
The latter imagines a triumphal arch with, on the top, a triumphant statue of Louis XIV. Shortly before the foundation stone was laid on in 1670, the work stops dead and the Sun King will never see a single piece of it before he dies in 1715. After the death of the king, the beginnings of this triumphal arch are definitely destroyed.
But some art alterations come to an end, notwithstanding, a few centuries later. In the 19th century, the Place de la Nation is adorned with its beautiful statue that we can still admire today in its center. A second architecture contest is held in 1878 and this time, the project achieves its aims. Competing too, architect Jules Dalou and the Morice brothers. The first arrives second while the seconds create the statue taking pride of place at the center of the Place de la République.
However, Dalou’s project is so appreciated that it’s decided that it will be erected on the Place de la Nation permanently named so on July 14, 1880. He sculpts the Triumph of the Republic in plaster on the occasion of the celebrations of the centenary of the French Revolution, followed by a 35-ton bronze version that finds its permanent spot on the Place de la Nation in 1889. This impressive monument joins the two huge columns erected by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux and topped – since 1845 – by the statues of Saint Louis and Philippe Auguste.
Speaking of the French Revolution, you can’t forget that on the Place de la Nation provocatively renamed the Place du Trône-Renversé [Square of the Toppled Throne] at that time, many public executions were conducted. A guillotine was set, and it’s was one of the most active ones in Paris. During the year 1794, in a few weeks only, about 1,300 political convicted persons have been guillotined.
Later on, in the 20th century, the Place de la Nation becomes the theater of many popular celebrations. Among the most famous of them, the Foire du Trône and its numerous merry-go-rounds and rides! This Parisian event will be held until 1964 on the Place de la Nation before being moved to the Pitch of Reuilly, a bit further on in the 12th arrondissement.
Place de la Nation
Avenue du Trône
75011 Paris 11