Place de la Concorde

Located at the foot of the Champs Elysees 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 and the Tuileries Gardens. 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 one continues as the French Naval Ministry. Shortly after its construction, the second building was made into the luxurious Hôtel Crillon (still operating today) where Marie Antoinette soon spent afternoons relaxing and taking piano lessons.

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 on January 21, 1793. In a frenzy of activity 1,343 heads were lopped off later in May of that year including that of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The square ran red with the stench of blood. Also guillotined there were notables such as Madame du Barry, Danton and Robespierre. They were all beheaded in front of cheering crowds. With the "Reign of Terror" subsiding, by 1795 the government began calling it Place de la Concorde (French for concord) and in 1830 the name was made official.

Today, the gruesome 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. 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 and the Hôtel Crillon off the northeast corner. The latter served as the headquarters of the occupying German army during Word War II.

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