The largest squares in Paris have a history at RMC Découverte


We pass by by car, by bicycle or on foot without asking ourselves about its history. However, most of the main Parisian squares have been important places in our past. This is what Mathias Goudeau’s documentary highlights, dedicated to four of them: La Concorde, Charles-de-Gaulle, the Bastille, the Trocadéro esplanade. Four of the approximately five hundred squares in the capital. This selection may seem mathematically drastic; It is historically ambitious, since each one of them could have fed, by itself, hours of presentations.

The execution is rhythmic, alternating aerial views and period documents –engravings, archives, maps–, plans and enlarged sketches of the places. The comments alternate with the interventions of a dozen historians (including Pascal Ory), heritage managers, architects, who testify to the exploits and adventures that have marked their constructions.

Honor to the largest of them, the Place de la Concorde (360 meters by 210 meters, the equivalent of fifty tennis courts), where the 3,300-year-old Obelisk of Luxor is located. The story begins on the 17thY century, when space was just a nauseating wasteland on the western edge of Paris, to reach the current restoration of the granite monolith covered in hieroglyphics and weakened by an original 7-meter crack.

Also read: Article reserved for our subscribers From the top of this golden pyramidion, thirty-two centuries watch the Concorde

We can regret that there is no mention of the return of the golden pyramidion on its top, searched for by Jacques Chirac and produced in 1998, nor is there any mention of the name of J.jonathan sobel, young artist graduated in 2021 from the Beaux-Arts de Paris, whose work adorns the canvas that currently covers the scaffolding.

total redevelopment

The Chaillot hill, 2 kilometers away on the west side, has an equally fascinating history: planed 5 meters, only with the help of shovels and picks, so that the carriages can climb the slope of the future very beautiful avenue du monde – the Elysian Fields. The square was then redesigned as a “star” and surrounded by mansions to house the imposing 50-meter-high tetrapyle arch, construction of which almost stopped 20 meters above the ground in 1814.

La Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe are part of a total remodeling of Parisian urbanism, which includes its counterpart to the east with the Place de la Bastille, another atypical place since it is built on a watercourse (the Saint-Martin canal), which which prevented it, in particular, from housing the monumental elephant fountain desired by Napoleon. Not a trace, however, of the famous Bastille, from where the Revolution set out on a certain July 14…

A must, finally, for its position in front of the Eiffel Tower, the Place du Trocadéro still has an unprecedented architectural past, as its current palace was built on top of the old one while completely razing the vast auditorium in its center to turn it into a lookout point. unique.

Nothing is set in stone: today is the 2024 Olympics that promise to green the area up to the Champ-de-Mars. Seule constant au fil des siècles, le project fait débat auprès des Parisiens, toujours prompts à polemiquer, qu’il s’agisse jadis de décider de l’emplacement où installer l’obelisque ou de rebaptiser, in 1970, l’Etoile en place Charles de Gaulle.

Originally, the Place de la Bastille was to house a monumental elephant fountain.

The largest squares in Paris, by Mathias Goudeau (Friday, 2022, 65 min.). Streaming through May 6 at

Leave a Comment