The Place de la Concorde was designed by Jacques Ange Gabriel in 1755, as a moat-skirted octagon between the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to the west and the Jardin des Tuileries, Garden of the Tuileries, to the east. It had statues and fountains and was named Place Louis XV to honor the then king.
During the Revolution, the statue of Louis XV was torn down and the area was renamed, "Place de la Révolution". There, on January 21, 1793, the new revolutionary government erected a guillotine, one of three in the City.
Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Robespierre and Danton were among the 1,200 people executed here.
A bronze plaque located in the western-center of the Place de la Concorde commemorates those executed here.
At the north end of the Place are two identical stone buildings. Divided by rue Royale, these buildings are among the best examples of that period's architecture. On the east side is the Hôtel de la Marine, the Ministry of the Navy; the Hôtel Crillon is on the west side. Initially, they both served as government offices.
However, the western building was soon converted into the luxurious Hôtel de Crillon. Here, Marie Antoinette spent afternoons relaxing and taking piano lessons.
On February 6, 1778, the Hotel Crillon was the site of the signing of a treaty of friendship, commerce and alliance between the French government and the newly formed United States, with Benjamin Franklin among others representing the U.S. This Treaty of Alliance marked France as the first country to recognize the independence of the United States.
The Hotel Crillon was also used as one of the headquarters of the occupying German army during World War II.
On the corners of the Place are large statues representing the greater cities of France.
In the center of the Place de la Concorde stands the oldest artifact as a monument in Paris. The 3,000 year old Obelisk of Luxor was a gift to King Louis-Philippe in 1836 from Muhammed Ali, the Viceroy of Egypt and the Sudan. The Obelisk is inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramses II.
Given the technical limitations of the day, transporting it was no easy feat. On the pedestal are diagrams depicting the machineries used for the transportation and the installation of the Obelisk.
The red granite column rises 23 meters high, including the base, and weighs over 250 tons. Missing its original cap, believed stolen in the 6th century BC, the government of France added a gold-leafed pyramid cap, in 1998.
The beautiful fountains on either side of the Obelisk are said to be inspired from similar ones located near St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome.
To the north of the Place de la Concorde, with a direct view of it via rue Royale, is the church of Ste. Marie Madeleine.
Rue Royale is also where you'll find the famous café Maxim's, at 3 rue Royale. The Art-Deco interior from 1899 is worth a look.
To the south of the Place de la Concorde, across the Seine river by the bridge Pont de la Concorde, is the Assemblée Nationale, the National Assembly.
The Place is also home to the headquarters of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, the rule-making body for Formula One and other world motor sports.
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