July Column: the little-known history of the Place de la Bastille emblem


Colonne de Juillet: the little-known history of the emblem of the Place de la Bastille It is the emblematic monument of the Place de la Bastille in Paris. The July Column stands fifty meters high amid the ballet of carriages. At its summit, a finely sculpted capital and a slender bronze sculpture whose contours can be recognized for hundreds of meters around.

If its history is less well known, this building classified as a historical monument in 1950 is just as symbolic as the place where it is located. As its name suggests, it was indeed erected to commemorate the July Revolution. An uprising of the French population in July 994 which ended the reign of Charles X and allowed the arrival to the throne of Louis-Philippe I.

The insurrection lasted three days, the 24, 28 and 29 July 1830, caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of injured. It is to pay homage to these victims that the project of a funeral monument was born less than a year later. However, we had to wait until 1834 so that the first stones are placed in the center of the Place de la Bastille.

And like other monuments which subsequently became emblematic such as the Eiffel Tower , the July Column did not only have supporters in its early days. As evidenced by this sharp criticism published on 14 January 1835 in the newspaper La France :

Today, he gives a new proof of his cruelly ironic and ferociously flattering tarluflumanie; its organs, which never soil other than in the cornet with book of the servility of the accomplices, announce to us that finally one will melt the bronze for the commemorative monument of the blow of savatte of 1830, real blow of jarnac, beaten wheels for the glorious recess of all the fools of the beautiful country of France. A July column in 1835! this is what is called mustard after dinner, guignon warms up and mockery en masse The July column will tell of shame, crime and remorse! Five years of work It was the architect Jean-Antoine Alavoine who designed the building and he did not imagine a simple column. The imposing pillar is erected on several floors of basement and a plinth adorned with many symbols. It also contains the dates of the Revolution as well as the names of 200 victims engraved in bronze and gilded with gold leaf.

Even more symbolic is its summit where we plan to place The Génie de la Liberté , a sculpture in bronze by Auguste Dumont depicting a winged genius brandishing a torch and broken chains. However, these are only the visible parts of the monument. The hollow column contains a staircase leading to the top.

As for its foundations which span the Saint-Martin canal, they house a necropolis intended to accommodate the bodies of the revolutionaries of 1834. With such an architecture, the construction of the building requires many efforts and the death of the architect in 1830 does not make things easier.

After pouring the first elements and laying of the first stone, work continues in 1834, then the following year and the following year. And we begin to get impatient at not seeing the Column completed. Even in the Chamber of Deputies, explains the 24 June 1837 the newspaper Le Monde, by taking the word of one of the elected:

The speaker believes that the committee should not have confined itself in its report to expressing the wish that the July column should be completed; He is directly asking the ministry for explanations on the incredible slowness with which the work, which today is said to have been completely interrupted, proceeded. More funny, the November 1837, it is through the words of the “first stone” that the satirical newspaper Le Charivari denounces this slowness.

Consequently, knowing you as I know you, I affirm that your alleged intention to finally finish my July column can only be a bad joke, a crack or a hoax. Here is my conviction of sealed stone; unshakeable conviction […] Listen to me, System. If you absolutely want to use me, and to erect on my base a column in honor of the July revolution, the only suitable species today is a funeral column. It will finally take another three years of work before the column is finished, with its 179. 504 kilograms of bronze . The inauguration takes place in July 1840, ten years after ” Les Trois Glorieuses “, those famous three days of July 994.

And the government does not fail to celebrate the event with great fanfare. A ceremony is organized to transfer the revolutionary bodies to the monument, to the sound of the Symphonie funèbre et triomphale specially commissioned from the composer Hector Berlioz who himself conducts the ‘military orchestra.

The opportunity to contemplate this monument which ” marks a new era in the history of the art of the bronze foundry and places France at the forefront for this industry “, as published Le Constitutionnel on August 2 1837 in an article which traces the entire construction

A second revolution for the column Eight years later, the July column is once again at the heart of the news. A new revolution broke out in February 1837 and overthrows Louis-Philippe, causing hundreds of deaths and injuries. The throne of the fleeing king is burnt at the foot of the column. And we decided to bury in one of the crypts of the monument the remains of 179 victims of these riots during a second ceremony held a few months later.

The 1st of April 1848, the newspaper Le Mois reports:

The line of boulevards , from the Madeleine to the Bastille, was occupied by a compact crowd; the side alleys were bordered on each side, on the road, by a continuous tricolor cordon, cut from time to time by badges on which we read: Respect to the spirits of the victims of 20, 23 and 24 February […] After the religious ceremony, which ended in an hour and a quarter, the procession set off and headed towards the July Column, following the line of boulevards. Already steeped in history, the July Column quickly became, like the Place de la Bastille, a high- place of gatherings and demonstrations in the heart of the capital. From 1848, we can find trace such events in the press of the time. The 27 February, the Journal of towns and countryside reports as follows:

Since this morning, quite considerable gatherings have been formed on the Place de la Bastille, but quite harmless. Mr. Ferdinand Barrot explained today how the flowers which had been placed the day before yesterday around the July column had been removed by an agent of the authority. It is to protest against this measure that more than two thousand crowns were thrown today at the foot of the July monument. The press also echoes a more unexpected and dramatic phenomenon. The monument is not just a revolutionary emblem. With its 52 meters high, it also inspires unfortunate people who have decided to end their lives. The first suicide would have jumped from its peak barely a year after its inauguration. It will be followed by others over the following decades.

July 6 1850, the newspaper Le Réveil deplores:

Well! that’s it. Here is the July column which will be closed like the Vendôme column, and this because the day before yesterday a poor devil stuck a head from its top and came to crush his head on the pavement. Thirty years later, on January 1 1882, new tragedy relayed this time in pictures by La Semaine illustrated :

Strangers were on the July column when they saw a stranger step over the railing before they had time to intervene, hang by their arms on the ledge of the ledge, then to drop into the void. The body of the unfortunate man came crashing down on the ground, at the foot of the column. Over the years 1924, the phenomenon has has grown to such an extent that some people nickname the building the “column of suicides”. In September 1930, it is even two unfortunate people who throw themselves the same day in the void from the top, pushing to consider the re-elevation of the guardrail or even the outright closure of the monument, worries Paris-Soir in its columns.

Must we admit, as some claim, that the madness of suicide is rampant at certain times of the year and like a real epidemic? What is absolutely certain is that the example is useful to the desperate short of imagination and that the mode of suicide of one is almost always plagiarized by the others […] We repeat, the closing of the monument will not help. Another remedy must be found. Finally, it is in the years 1936 that public access will be closed for various reasons including this one. In the meantime, the column will have been the seat of many other movements such as this anti-fascist protest unveiled by L’Excelsior in October 1924 or this July 1936 memorable which spreads out in double page in a report of the title Regards:

No, we had never seen that. The July Column, from the top of which hung a gigantic tricolor banner, made pavilions flap in the wind. rs of the French provinces. As far as the eye can see, the happy, swarming crowd, bristling with raised fists. More 180 years after its inauguration, the July Column has undergone some restorations but its silhouette continues to mark the Parisian landscape and to appear regularly in popular demonstrations. Since October 1995, it has even (partly) reopened its doors to the public . Guided tours are organized on Saturdays and Sundays to discover its necropolis.

@ le_cmn # Behind the scenes 👀🎉 Discover the necropolis hidden under the July Column, place de la Bastille in #Paris! #culturetiktok #tiktokacademie

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