Heads rolled here! Site of the infamous guillotine Revolutionary executions, the Place de la Concorde (renamed to emphasize serenity following tumultuous times) is a beautiful component in the alignment of monuments Baron Haussman extended from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe. Previously named Place Louis IV, when a statue of that king dominated the square, and then Place de la Revolution, when all the head rolling was going on, this is the largest (21 acres) square in Paris.
Here you can see the fascinating Obelisk, one of two that fronted an Egyptian temple in Thebes, later called Luxor, from the 13th centurt B.C. Its arduous, lengthy journey from the original site is fittingly depicted in gold leaf pictographs on sides above its base. The hieroglyphic stele was finally capped with matching gold leaf on its bronze pyramid top in 1998, replacing a cap that had been stolen in the sixth century B.C. Nightly, laser rays illuminate this cap to afford a spectacular sight. The mate of this Parisian obelisk is still at Luxor, whereas this red granite monument, a "gift" of friendship authorized by the Egyptian viceroy in 1831, was removed and transported by a French naval engineer in a process that took five years, culminating in its unveiling in October 1836.
What is so enthralling is to see the detail of the Obelisk’s journey on the Obelisk itself. Via the aptly named ship Louxor, that journey from Egypt to Paris extended from December 1831 to December 1833, with a route that went from Alexandria to Toulon to Cherbourg to the Seine near the Place de la Concorde.The photographs in this entry display some of the monument’s sides illustrating this complex transfer. The engineer, Jean Baptiste Apollinaire Lebas (great Revolutionary name!), was amply rewarded with cash and a medallion by King Charles X.
Definitely downplayed, a plaque on the side of the Obelisk that faces the Arc marks the over 1300 heads cleaved by the guillotine that its inventor devised as a "kinder", "quicker", "cleaner" way to execute people than other medieval methods of prolonged agony still in use just before his invention.
Today, the Obelisk stands in this lovely, octagonal square, flanked by two fountains by Jacob Ignaz Hittorff, the German architect who designed the square as we see it and created the eight female statues representing the largest French cities of his time that adorn the square’s periphery. The Hotel de la Marine and the Hotel Crillon on this prestigious square are architectural feats themselves, both designed by the square’s first architect, Louis XIV’s architect, Jaques-Ange Gabriel.
This expansive, historic spot is conveniently reached by taking the RER 3 to Champs Elysses or Metro to Concorde.