Place de la Concorde

From Academic Kids

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The Place de la Concorde seen from the Pont de la Concorde; in front, the Obelisk, behind, the Rue Royale and the Church of the Madeleine; on the left, the Hôtel de Crillon.
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A fountain on the Place de la Concorde. Behind: the Hôtel de Crillon; to the left: the embassy of the United States of America.
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The Obelisk of Luxor stands on top on a pedestal that recounts the special machineries and maneuvers that were used to transport it.
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Place de la Concorde in 1885

Located at the foot of the Champs-Élysées in Paris, France, the Place de la Concorde was designed by Jacques Ange Gabriel in 1755 as a moat-skirted octagon between the Champs-Élysées to the west and the Tuileries Gardens to the east. Filled with statues and fountains, the area was named Place Louis XV to honor the then king. At the north end, two magnificent identical stone buildings were constructed. Divided by the rue Royale, these structures are among the best examples of that period's architecture and remain there to this day. Initially they served as government offices and the eastern one continues as the French Naval Ministry. Shortly after its construction, the western building was made into the luxurious Hôtel de Crillon (still operating today) where Marie Antoinette soon spent afternoons relaxing and taking piano lessons. The hôtel also served as the headquarters of the occupying German army during World War II.

During the French Revolution the statue of King 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 des Grèves" 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 Révolution was King Louis XVI, on January 21, 1793. Other important people guillotined there, often in front of cheering crowds, were Queen Marie Antoinette, Madame Elisabeth, Madame du Barry, Danton, Lavoisier, and Robespierre. The guillotine was most active during the "Great Terror", in the summer of 1794, when in a single month more than 1300 people were executed. With the "Reign of Terror" subsiding after the Thermidorian Reaction (July 27, 1794), by 1795 the government began calling it Place de la Concorde (French for concord) and in 1830 the name was made official.

Today, the bloody history of Place de la Concorde is lost behind the daily hordes of motor vehicles rushing past a giant Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramses II. Egypt presented the 3,300-year-old Luxor Obelisk to France in 1836, and King Louis-Philippe had it placed in the centre of Place de la Concorde. Given the technical limitations of the day, transporting it was no easy feat — on the pedestal are drawn diagrams explaining the machineries that were used for the transportation. The red granite column rises 23 metres high, including the base, and weighs over 250 tonnes. Missing its original cap, believed stolen in the 6th century BC, in 1998 the government of France added a gold-leafed pyramid cap to the top of the obelisk.

The obelisk lies in the line of the axe historique. The United States embassy is located just off the square in the northwest corner, west of the Hôtel de Crillon. To the north lies the Ste Marie Madeleine. The Place is also home to the headquarters of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, the rulemaking body for Formula One and other world motorsport.

Without warning, in 2000, French urban climber, Alain "Spiderman" Robert, using only his bare hands and feet and with no safety devices of any kind, scaled the obelisk all the way to the top.

External links

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