Place de la Nation, a major roundabout
The Place de la Nation is located in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, the historic district of the cabinet-makers.
This populous area was the cradle of the various revolutions that destabilised the country in the late 18th and 19th century.
The inhabitants indeed initiated the French Revolution of 1789 and the storming of the Bastille fortress.
A deep republican symbolism is still attached to the ‘faubourg’, as the route Place de la Nation – Place de la Bastille is still ‘the route’ of the major political demonstrations.
The starting point is Place de la Nation.
This vast roundabout is laid out around a sculptural group representing the ‘Triumph of the Republic’ that sits in the central reservation.
Place du Trône
The Place de la Nation, however, remained deserted until the mid 19th century.
Back in the 10th century, it was a fallow land that served for the Abbey of Saint-Antoine’s annual Gingerbread Fair.
This fair remained popular until the French Revolution.
In 1660, the area was purposely improved for the triumphal entrance of Louis XIV and his young wife Marie-Therèse of Austria after his coronation in Reims.
A throne was indeed placed in the centre, so the royal newlyweds could meet the Parisians.
This major historical event left its name to the square, which became known as Place du Trône.
However, the area remained sparsely populated, as it was away from the main access roads and the Seine.
Barrière du Trône on Mur des Fermiers Généraux
It was still a wasteland when the Barrière du Trône, one of the tollgates of the Wall of the Farmers General, was erected in 1778.
The architect Ledoux built two toll-booths and a 60m long grid to link them.
He also built two identical square pavilions on each side to accommodate the Customs offices and staff’s private quarters.
Ten years later, the toll-booths served as a pedestal for the two 28m high Doric columns that frame the entrance to the Cours de Vincennes.
In 1841, Antoine Étex and Auguste Dumont sculpted the statues representing King Saint-Louis and King Philippe-Auguste that top them.
The Barrière du Trône (pavilions and booths) was listed Historical Monument on April 24, 1907.
Place du Trône Renversé
The pavilions, columns and booths escaped demolition, but the square served as place of execution during the French Revolution.
The revolutionaries renamed it Place du Trône Renversé and set up the grim guillotine.
Tragically, between June 13 and July 28, 1794 they executed over 1,300 people, young and elderly, men and women, aristocrats and common people on the square in the name of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity!
The area retained the stigma of these tragic events and remained mostly rural until the territorial reform of 1860 that integrated it to the City of Paris.
It was fully landscaped and renamed Place de la Nation for the celebrations of Bastille Day on July 14, 1880.
Le Triomphe de la République
Dalou’s impressive bronze sculpture Le Triomphe de la République was unveiled in 1899.
It replaced a first plaster cast produced in 1889 for the celebrations of the centenary the Revolution.
A woman called Marianne traditionally embodies the French Republic.
Dalou represented her standing on a chariot pulled by two lions.
The Spirit of Liberty guides the chariot, and a blacksmith, the symbol of Work, pushes it, while statues of Justice and Abundance and a group of children surround it.
Marianne faces Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine, the street that leads to Place de la Bastille through the Faubourg-Saint-Antoine.
Directions: 12th district
Metro: Nation on Lines 1, 2, 5, 6, 9 and RER A
Coordinates: Lat 48.848390 – Long 2.395921