The Colonne Vendome in Paris



There was once an equestrian statue with King Louis XIV that was on display in the centre of the square of Place Vendome, which was to honour the king and commemorate his victories, however King Louis XIV never lived long enough to see this happen.

But even though the statue was in place from when the Place Vendome was finally completed, it was eventually brought down and destroyed during the French Revolution, which is when the history of Paris changed and many monuments in Paris were destroyed, plundered and numerous artefacts were lost forever.
Colonne Vendome Paris
The story definitely does not end there though, as in 1800 a decision was made to erect a column in the place of the original statue in the centre of the square, but this never got started.

However, even though the idea of a column to glorify different French military victories never took place then, Napoleon Bonaparte also had the same idea of a column and he actually wanted to bring the Trajan Column from Rome so that this monument could be erected in the Place Vendome square.

You can probably imagine some of the objections and discussions that took place and this never actually happened, but Napoleon was very much into commemorating the victories of his armies in grand ways, and that is why he even commissioned the Arc de Triomphe to be constructed.
And even though there was opposition to building the Trajan column, there was still a column erected at the centre of Place Vendome in order to commemorate the victory of France at the Battle of Austerlitz.

Therefore, the column was first known as the Colonne d’Austerlitz, which was modelled on the Trajan Column in Rome and the bass relief bronze plates on the column were made from the cannons that had been taken from the victories in Europe including at the Battle of Austerlitz.

Now, the plates themselves were designed by numerous different sculptors that included Francois Rude and Louis Simon Boizot and on the top of the column there was a statue of Napoleon without any hat, as he was decorated with laurels and holding a sword, just like a Roman emperor and the Colonne d’Austerlitz was an impressive 44 metres high.
Colonne Vendome eagle
Colonne Vendome
Apparently, some people tried to remove the statue of Napoleon at one point, but they never managed the task, however, after the Bourbon restoration the statue itself on top of the column was pulled down.

Then the bronze from this statue was melted down and was re-cast in to another statue which is now located on the Pont Neuf bridge, which goes across the River Seine and is the oldest bridge you can get to see today, yet a replacement statue of Napoleon Bonaparte was also created.

It was King Louis Philippe that had the statue of Napoleon created and erected in place of the original in the late 1830s, which this time saw him wearing a hat and more modern attire than that of the previous statue and was re-named the Colonne de la Victoire, or Victory Column.
Colonne Vendome Napoleon I statue
However, during the Paris Commune, the painter Gustave Courbet presented the idea that the column should be dismantled from the Place Vendome and re positioned at the Hotel des Invalides, because Napoleon had been the patron of Les Invalides, where war veterans resided.

The project submitted at the start of 1871 by Gustave Courbet was met with much disagreement and rejected, however, legislation by the government then passed to completely dismantle the Colonne de la Victoire later on in the same year.

But the good news is that the bronze plates were preserved and it was after the suppression of the Paris Commune, that the decision was made to rebuild this famous monument in Paris.
Colonne Vendome base sculpture
Colonne Vendome inscription
Yet because of the involvement of Gustave Courbet, he was the one to take the blame for the dismantling of the column in the first place and was ordered to pay the costs for rebuilding it, but unfortunately, he died before he could put any money towards the costs involved.

However, by the year 1874 the column was rebuilt in the centre of the Place Vendome with a copy of the original statue of Napoleon Bonaparte I dressed as a Roman emperor positioned on the top.  Commissioned by Napoleon III, there was even an inner staircase, which could take you to the top of the column, that was now called the Colonne de la Grande Armee.

The same monument with a copy of the original statue can still be admired today and has now become known as the Colonne Vendome, but unfortunately for us, visitors are no longer allowed to climb the stairs inside the Vendome column.
Colonne Vendome bas relief

Visiting Colonne Vendome Monument in Paris



As you have already no doubt read, this monument is located within the square in Paris called the Place Vendome, and you will find this in the 1st Arrondissement close to numerous tourist attractions including the Tuileries Gardens.

And due to its location, getting here via public transport in Paris is very easy, with the nearest Metro stations being the Pyramides stop serving lines 7 and 14, the Opera stop serving lines 3, 7 and 8, the Tuileries stop serving line 1 or the Concorde stop serving lines 1, 8 and 12.

Yet the nearest RER station called the Musee d’Orsay stop serves line C, but is actually across the River Seine and a fair walk away, however, some of the bus tours in Paris like the hop on and hop off service of l’OpenTour, also travel close by on one of their routes around the city.