Emerging from the Metro, even the most intrepid traveller will find La Place de La Concorde a little daunting. The roar of the incessantly whirling traffic makes you want to turn and run for the shelter of the nearby Tuilleries gardens. But don’t, persevere, there’s a lot to see and La Place De La Concorde has its own fascinating history.
Designed in 1755, the octagonal shaped place was originally named La Place Louis XV, after the King of the time. His stone image, on horseback, stood at its centre.
During the French Revolution, the statue of the Louis XV was torn down and a guilloutine erected in its place. The square was re-named “La Place de la Revolution” and it was here, watched by cheering crowds, that Louis XVI was executed on January 21, 1793. His wife Marie Antoinette was put to death shortly after. In 1794 more than 1, 300 people fell victim to the guilloutine in a single month. The square became a terrible place and its stones were stained with the blood of the people killed there.
In 1795, the guilloutine was removed and the square was renamed Place de la Concorde. At each of the angles of the octagon is a statue, representing eight great cities of France. Two Romanesque fountains represent the rivers and seas. On the northern side of the place are two magnificent stone mansions, dating back to the time of Louis XV. Today one of them houses one of the world’s most luxurious hotels, Le Crillon.
During World War II Le Crillon served as the headquarters of the High Command of the German Army and La Place de La Concorde became the centre of occupied France. The obelisk, which today stands on the spot where Louis XV once sat astride his stone horse, is decorated with hieroglyphics celebrating the reign of Ramses II. It once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple and was gifted to the people of France by the Egyptian Government in 1833.
Finally, La Place de La Concorde forms part of the great vista of avenues, arches, squares and gardens that stretches all the way from ultra modern La Défense through the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elysées, across the Place de la Concorde, through the Tuileries gardens to Le Musée du Louvre.