The Vendôme column, desired by Napoleon 1st


Erected in 1810, felled in 1871 then rebuilt in 1875

Before 1810

A monumental statue of Louis XIV, the work of Girardon, cast bronze in one piece by Keller, 6 m high and placed on a 10 m high pedestal, stands in the center of Place des Conquêtes. It was inaugurated on August 13, 1699 and the square then became the Place Louis-le-Grand.

On August 13, 1792, the Revolutionaries were there: we were at Place des Piques and the symbol of absolutism crumbled to the ground.
The pieces are looted (only the King’s left foot is saved and now on display in the Louvre).

After various projects under different regimes, it is Bonaparte, First Consul, who will restore a monument on the Square.

From his campaigns in Italy, he returns with fond memories of Trajan’s Column, a war trophy he had to give up. The work of Apollodorus of Damascus, Trajan’s Column was erected in 112 AD, in honor of the Emperor Trajan and his victorious expeditions against the Dacians. Placed in the center of the forum in Rome, it is 100 feet high and composed of 23 drums of carved white marble.

On October 1, 1803, Bonaparte signed the following decree:

« In Paris, in the center of Place Vendôme, a column like the one erected in Rome in honor of Trajan will be erected. The column will be surmounted by a pedestal, finished in a semicircle, decorated with olive leaves and supporting the pedestrian statue of Charlemagne “.

But Charlemagne will never have his statue in Place Vendôme: in 1804, the proclamation of the Empire led to a modification: we voted to replace Napoleon for Charlemagne!
On January 1, 1806, Napoleon signed the construction decree.

Inauguration in 1810

More than 149,000 kilos of Austrian and Russian guns were melted down, under the leadership of Vivant Denon. The project managers are Jean-Baptiste Lepère and Jacques Gondouin. The designs for the bronze plaques are entrusted to Pierre Bergeret. As for the statue of Napoleon as a Roman emperor, it was designed by Antoine-Denis Chaudet.

On August 13, 1792, the Revolutionaries were there: we were at Place des Piques and the symbol of absolutism collapsed to the ground.
The pieces are looted (only the King’s left foot is saved and now exhibited in the Louvre).

The inauguration of the column surmounted by a 1st Napoleon in Roman chlamys took place on August 15, 1810.

Technical data :

  • 98 rock drums from Bayeux
  • 425 bronze bas-reliefs, weighing 200,000 kilos, stapled to stone
  • A spiral staircase of 176 steps, carved in the mass ;
  • Height: 44.17 m; Diameter : 3,67 m
  • Height of the statue with its base: 3.50 m

After the Empire

1814 :The emperor is considered “an insurmountable obstacle to peace”, it is the fall of the Empire, the announcement of the Restoration. April 8, the statue of Napoleon in his Roman chlamys, is sent to the cast …
The column is barely saved thanks to the intervention of Tsar Alexander (Napoleon had forbidden any allusion to the defeats of the Russian army on the column, wishing for an alliance with Russia).

1833, 2nd statue of the Emperor, in the uniform of Chasers of the Guard:

On April 8, 1831, Casimir Périer, Louis-Philippe’s Minister of the Interior, signed the royal ordinance to reinstall a Napoleon.
It is Charles-Marie Seurre who will be the artist sculptor and Crozatier, the master founder.

July 28, 1833The inauguration of this new statue (at the Invalides since 1911) of a Napoleon, as a young conqueror corporal, takes place in a familiar posture: right hand in the waistcoat, field view in the left hand, boots on the rider and legendary little hat!

1863, 3rd statue of the Emperor, in Roman chlamys:

Napoleon III, nephew of the First Emperor, wants a powerful Napoleon. He entrusted this work to the sculptor Dumont and the founder Victor Thiébaut.
Inaugurated without pump on November 5, 1863, une nouvelle représentation de Napoléon en Imperator romain coiffe la colonne.
La veille, on avait descendu le petit caporal…