Short description

The Column Vendôme was erected by order of Napoleon 1st, from 1806 to 1810 to commemorate the battle of Austerlitz, then destroyed during the Paris Commune in 1871 before being rebuilt as we know it today. The column was named the column of the Grande Armée.

The dedicatory inscription, written in an antique manner, means "Napoleon Emperor Augustus consecrated to the glory of the Great Army this column formed of the bronze conquered on the enemy during the war of Germany, won under his command in 1805 in the space of three months".

Its barrel, consisting of 98 stone drums (rings), is covered with a cast bronze facing of 1,200 cannons taken from the Russian and Austrian armies. This number is probably exaggerated by propaganda, historians count about 130 guns taken from Austerlitz. An interior staircase leads to a platform located under the statue at the top.

During the insurrection of the Paris Commune, which lasted from March 18, 1871, until the "Bloody Week" from May 21 to 28, 1871, the motivations became more radical. The column was finally knocked down on 16 May 1871, not without difficulty, 11 days before the Commune was crushed.

The re-construction of the Column Vendôme begun in 1873 and completed in 1875 - at the expense of the painter Gustave Courbet (whom he never paid). He was condemned because he was at the origin of the destruction of the previous one.

Localisation
Open hours

Vendome column can be seen from Place Vendome (free access, 24 h/day)

Access

Colonne Vendôme
Place Vendôme
75001 Paris

  • Metro
    • line 1 - Tuileries station
    • Lines 7 and 14 - Pyramide station
    • Lines 7 and 8: Opera station
  • Bus - lines 72 and 52
Address

Colonne Vendôme
Place Vendôme
75001 Paris

Coordinates Latitude Longitude
Sexagesimal (°, ', ") 48° 52' 03" N 2° 19′ 46″ E
Degré décimal (GPS) 48.86757 2.32951

 

Reservation

Vendome column not open to visitors but Place Vendome is access free 24 hours a day

Full description

Vendome column is not only a memorial to Napoleon's victory of 1806 at Austerlitz!

The "Vendome column" located in the center of the square of the same name

It is in the center, in the 1st district of Paris. It was erected by order of Napoleon 1st, from 1806 to 1810 to commemorate the battle of Austerlitz, then destroyed during the Paris Commune in 1871 before being rebuilt as we know it today.

Quite a history! Over the years, it was given the names of Column of Austerlitz, then Column of Victory before becoming a column of the Grande Armée. Today it is commonly called the Vendôme Column.

The idea of Place Vendome column

On this site stood the statue of Louis XIV, destroyed in 1792 (Revolution).
The column dedicated to the Glory of the French People will quickly become the glory of Napoleon 1st. But the construction was slow, the construction being spread out between 1805 and 1810. The column was named the column of the Grande Armée. But a statue of Napoleon as Caesar by the sculptor Antoine-Denis Chaudet (1763-1810) was placed at the top.

Construction of the column

The base of the Vendome column is made of porphyrin granite from Corsica (Algajola). The dedicatory inscription, written in an antique manner, is as follows:

NEAPOLIO IMP AVG
MONVMENTVM BELLI GERMANICI
ANNO MDCCCV
TRIMESTRI SPATIO DVCTV SVO PROFLIGATI
EX AERE CAPTO
GLORIAE EXERCITVS MAXIMI DICAVIT

which can read: "Napoleon Emperor Augustus consecrated to the glory of the Great Army this column formed of the bronze conquered on the enemy during the war of Germany, won under his command in 1805 in the space of three months".

Its barrel, consisting of 98 stone drums (rings), is covered with a cast bronze facing of 1,200 cannons taken from the Russian and Austrian armies. This number is probably exaggerated by propaganda, historians count about 130 guns taken from Austerlitz. The column is decorated, in an antique manner, with bas-reliefs representing trophies and battle scenes. Winding in a continuous spiral up to the top, this 280 m long decoration is composed of 425 bronze plates.  Dominique Vivant Denon(1) (engraver and Director of Museums) distributed the bas-reliefs to about thirty experienced sculptors and young people.

(1) Dominique Vivant Denon
As Director-General of Museums, he is particularly well known for the organization of the Louvre Museum. In this capacity, he is considered today as a great precursor of museology, art history, and Egyptology.

An interior staircase leads to a platform located under the statue at the top. The statue visible today dates from the Second Empire (1863). It is due to the sculptor Auguste Dumont and represents Napoleon 1st, in Caesar imperator, draped in a short cloak and wearing as attributes of his glory, the sword, the winged victory, and the imperial crown of laurels.

The history of the statue at the top of the Vendome column

In the spring of 1814, during the occupation of Paris by Allied troops (against Napoleon), the statue was removed and replaced by a white flag decorated with flowers during the Restoration.

According to a contemporary, this statue of Napoleon was melted down to make the Equestrian Statue of Louis XIV (currently Place des Victoires) of 1822. However, according to the Musée d'Orsay, the metal was used to cast the equestrian statue of Henri IV of 1818 on the Pont Neuf.

Under the July Monarchy (King Louis Philippe), a new statue of the Emperor, as "the little corporal" (before he was Emperor) by Charles Emile Seurre, (today at the Invalides), is placed at the top of the column on July 28, 1833.

Napoleon III, considering that this precious statue was in danger at the top of the Vendome column, had it removed and replaced in 1863 by a copy of the first statue of Napoleon 1st as Roman Emperor of Chaudet, made by the sculptor Auguste Dumont.

The inauguration took place on November 4, 1863. It is this statue, restored and inaugurated on December 28, 1875 (after the destructive passage of the Commune), that can be seen today. However, while sculptor Chaudet had represented the Emperor holding in his left hand the globe of victory and his sword in his right hand, Dumont showed Napoleon holding his sword in his left hand and the globe of victory from the former statue of Chaudet in his right hand.

The consequences of the Commune de Paris in the history of Column Vendôme

After the fall of Napoleon III (1870) and the proclamation of the Third Republic, the painter Gustave Courbet addressed a petition to the government of National Defense on September 14, 1870, asking "to unbolt the column ... and have the materials transported to the Hôtel de la Monnaie". In fact, he intended to have it rebuilt at the Invalides.  During the insurrection of the Paris Commune, which lasted from March 18, 1871, until the "Bloody Week" from May 21 to 28, 1871, the motivations became more radical:

« The Paris Commune, considering that the imperial column on Place Vendôme is a monument of barbarism, a symbol of brute force and false glory, an affirmation of militarism, a negation of international law, a permanent insult from the victors to the vanquished, a perpetual attack on one of the three great principles of the French Republic, fraternity, decrees: single article - The Vendôme column will be demolished. »

The demolition planned for May 5, 1871, the anniversary of Napoleon's death, had to be postponed because of the military situation in which the Commune found itself. The column was finally knocked down on 16 May 1871, not without difficulty, 11 days before the Commune was crushed. The bronze plaques were recovered but the globe of the original 1810 victory was lost.

The reconstruction of the Vendome column and Gustave Courbet

It was begun in 1873 and completed in 1875 - at the expense of the painter Gustave Courbet (whom he never paid).

Gustave Courbet is a painter well known for some of his provocative paintings in the society of his time. He is the author in particular of "l'origine du monde", a painting which is both the symbol of the woman and a lesson in the female anatomy. This painting is on display at the Musée d'Orsay.

But Courbet was more or less directly involved in the knockdown of the Vendome column by the Commune. Classified as politically left-wing, he was condemned in May 1873. He had to pay for the reconstruction of the Vendôme column destroyed by the Commune (323,091.68 francs according to the estimate). There followed a long legal battle that he waged from his exile in Switzerland in order to delay the trial and hoped for an amnesty. In January 1877, appealing, he will recognize only 140,000 francs of cost. In November 1877, the State offered to spread his debt over thirty years, and Courbet's last known letter revealed that he refused to pay the first draft of 15,000 francs.  He died on December 31, 1877, of a liver disease that his intemperance had aggravated.

How much are 10,000 francs from 1850 nowadays? According to our research, it seems that 1 franc of that time is worth between 2.5 and 5 € today.

The restoration of the column (2014 - 2015)

In 2014-2015, the Vendome column is the subject of a restoration campaign financed entirely by the Ritz Hotel, located at 15 Place Vendome, a few meters from the column. The purpose of the conservation restoration was to restore the legibility of the structure by removing encrustations and dust and balancing the shades by selective cleaning and the application of spot patinas.

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  • July 24, 2024 11:46 am local time

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