The Vendôme column, desired by Napoleon 1st


Erected in 1810, felled in 1871 then rebuilt in 1875

Before 1810

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).

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.

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, a new representation of Napoleon as a Roman Imperator tops the column.
The day before, the little corporal had been shot…

With the public

1870 : the Prussians enter Paris…

1871 : the Commune decides (on April 22) to destroy the Column. On May 16, a whistle notch was made at its base; the Column collapsed under the satisfied gaze of the painter Gustave Courbet, delegate of the Commune to the Fine Arts, who had demanded its destruction.

« Fall of an odious monument, symbol of despotism ».

But 5 days later, the Commune disappeared! The new Republic immediately voted (on May 22!) to repair the column.
This was a huge project that would take a long time to complete, as the decree only appeared in the Journal Officiel on March 5, 1875. It is thus under the IIIrd Republic, under the direction of Pinelli, with the architect Lenormand and the master founder Charnod that the restoration work starts.
The ruins remained in place for nearly four years and only 6 plates were stolen from the site.

And on December 27, 1875, the restored statue of the Emperor was hoisted to the top of the rectified column, under the eyes of Mac-Mahon, President of the Republic but above all a great captain of the Second Empire…

« Ah! that one is proud to be French
When you look at the column! »

During the Belle Époque, the great families settled in Place Vendôme.
With the opening of the Ritz Hotel, the jewelers left the Palais-Royal to settle in Place Vendôme.

1992 : Classified as a historical monument