If you are visiting our beautiful city of Bordeaux for your vacations, you can’t miss the Esplanade des Quinconces and the Girondins monument.
Throughout the year, the Place des Quinconces hosts several events and activities that attract visitors from around the world. On the menu, one of the most popular events is the Bordeaux Wine Festival, which takes place every two years in the square. The festival is a celebration of the city’s wine culture and includes wine tastings, food stands and live music performances. It also hosts the famous Foire aux Plaisirs or the Arlette Gruss circus. Various experiences to enjoy this famous square of the Quinconces !
Why is it built this way? What does its name mean and what is the history behind this square, known as the biggest in France? Discover its history.
A true heritage of the culture of Bordeaux, it was built in the 19th century, on the former site of the royal fortress of Château Trompette which was built at the end of the 100 years war, in the middle of the 15th century. This castle was then enlarged by Vauban, under the order of King Louis XIV. Opinions were quite divergent on this subject, because hated by the Bordelais against whom its cannons were often directed, the Château Trompette was finally destroyed in the early 19th century.
The name of the Place des Quinconces, comes from the arrangement of the trees, where several groups of 5 trees are taken up along the length of the alleys. One also finds there the statues of Montaigne and Montesquieu opposing each other.
These bronze statues come from far away. In 1941, a decree imposed the melting down of metal statues in order to supply the German armament factories. Then on the night of August 14-15, 1942, the bronzes left Bordeaux to be melted down. Fortunately hidden by a network of resistance fighters, the statues returned to Bordeaux, intact, after the war. They were then stored in Lormont, on the right bank, for many years. Indeed, the set that can be admired today was only reconstituted in 1982. Moreover, the “monument to the Girondists and the Republic” was able to regain its original function as a decorative fountain.
When you walk along the main square, you can see the two 21-meter high rostral columns at the end, facing the Garonne. These columns were once used to welcome sailors and celebrate maritime victories. They were built in 1828 by the architect Alexandre Poitevin in a “neo-classical” style. Both were built in a symmetrical way, but each one keeps different symbols that characterize them.
In 1829, the Place des Quinconces was decorated on the Garonne side with two rostral columns symbolizing Commerce and Navigation. Indeed, Commerce and Navigation are represented in an allegorical way by two cast iron statues which are at the top of the columns. They are Mercury (Hermes) and Artemis (Diana). However, these statues are not the originals. The first versions were, in fact, made in terracotta by a sculptor whose name was Maggesi.
The project for the fountain at the foot of the Girondins’ column dates back to 1893, when Bordeaux wished to pay homage to the Girondin deputies, heroes and martyrs of the Revolution. Consequently, the sculptor Achille Dumilâtre and the architect Victor Rich designed a monumental ensemble consisting of a 50-meter high white marble column and a very complete set of marble and bronze statues. At the top of the column stands a statue representing the Genius of Liberty breaking his chains and brandishing the palm of Victory.
At the feet of the base of the monument to the Girondins, there are several types of statues with different symbols, including the 8 marine horses.
It is also possible to observe, on the side of the Grand Theatre, the “Triumph of the Republic” is represented by a blacksmith symbolizing work, a woman holding a sword designating security and the latter is sitting on a lion expressing strength. If we look below these sculptures, we can find the presence of a group of 3 children, located on the right and left of the monument. Each of these groups represents “compulsory education and military service”.
Then towards the Public Garden, there is the “Triumph of the Concord”, built by the architect Felix Charpentier, which highlights this monument. The sculptures on this side symbolize fraternity, with the characters of a bourgeois and a worker.
The notion of “Girondins” is due to the French Revolution and to history. During the Revolution, two camps opposed each other: the Girondins, originating from the provincial bourgeoisie, and the Jacobins of Paris, otherwise known as the Montagnards. As a result, the Girondins were eventually executed, which is when the people of Bordeaux showed a great interest in the name “Girondins”.
The monument to the Girondins and the esplanade of the Quinconces still hide many secrets of history. If you want to discover them, plan your next visit on our site, to book your tickets and take advantage of our best tours to explore the monuments of Bordeaux. You will be able to visit the center with a guided and commented bus tour, to enjoy an immersive experience in the center of Bordeaux.
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