Place des Quinconces history
Place des Quinconces is located on the site of the old Château Trompette – the “Castle Trumpet”. This castle was built after the Hundred Years War as a way to protect Bordeaux against future English aggression. The castle was demolished in the early 19th century and made place for this magnificent square which was built shortly after the castle demolition.
Place des Quinconces
The name, “Place des Quinconces”, comes from the original formation of the trees planted on the square. A “quincunx” is a geometric pattern consisting of five points; four of them forming a square or rectangleand a fifth at its center, much like a “5” on a regular dice. The square has also been a center of transportation since the installation of the tram network in 2003.
Why visit Place des Quinconces ?
Place des Quinconces is the largest city square in not only Bordeaux and France, but in whole Western Europe. This square covers a mighty 126.000 m² and is crowned by the inspiring Girondist Column.
The Girondist Column
The centerpiece of Place des Quinconces is its mighty pillar; the Girondist Column. During the later stage of the 19th century, the municipal council decided to raise a monument at the western end of the square. After having considered several other projects, the decision was finally taken to raise a monument in honor of “The Girondists” and the triumph of the republic.
The Girondists were a small Revolution deputy group with their seat here in Bordeaux; a group which members later were convicted traitors and enemies of the country by the new regime they helped bring to power. The majority of them were executed. The 43 meters high column and its surrounding fountains were erected between 1894 and 1902.
The top of the column is crowned by a large bronze statue of a winged lady with a broken chain in one of her hands. This statue depicts Liberty breaking free from the chains of oppression. In her other hand she holds a laurel branch, which symbolizes the victory of the republic.
Below her, an inscription in the column shows “RF”. This is a symbol which often can be seen at republic monuments and stands for “République Française”.
At the base of the column stands one of the symbols of France, the Gallic Rooster – also known as the French Cockerel. The cockerel is the symbol of Frances history, land and culture and has been used ever since the Middle Ages.
Water meets bronze
While the column itself is beautiful, it is the fountains on the sides which often get the most attention. The fountains are based around massive bronze sculptures. On the south side of the column stands “Le triomphe de la République” – “the triumph of the Republic”, and on the other side, “Le triomphe de la Concorde”- “the triumph of Agreements”.
The sea-horse drawn chariots symbolize peace and happiness while the men getting overthrown in front of the chariots symbolize lies and ignorance. The combination of the flowing water and sculptures full of life, gives an impression that the sea-horses are leaping out of the water towards you in a spectacular fashion. The two incredible fountains form a worthy addition to Bordeaux’s incredible cityscape.
The bronze statues were dismantled by German troops in search of metal during the Second World War. These statues were however found in 1944 in the French city of Angers. They were then brought back to Bordeaux and later reinstalled.
On the other side of Place des Quinconces stands two lesser columns which together form the east entrance to the square. These columns were raised in 1829 in neo-classical style. Visitors who takes a closer look at them will see that both are decorated with anchors, the mark of the Roman god of trade “the Mercury Caduceus” and above that a guiding star. These all symbolize what the columns celebrate, which is “Trade” and “Navigation”.
On both sides of Place des Quinconces, in between the Girondist monument and the eastern columns, one can find white marble statues of Montaigne and Montesquieu. Montaigne was born close to Bordeaux and was one of the most influential writers during the French Renaissance while Montesquieu was a political thinker who was active in the Bordeaux parliament.
Today, Place des Quinconces is a square of many activities. Fun fair and markets are set up on a regular basis and concerts, sport events and other gatherings are often held at this mighty square.
Place des Quinconces location
For the exact location of Place des Quinconces, check out the Location Map to the right.