Framed by tree alleys planted in a quincunx, and from which the name would come, this huge square regularly hosts concerts, fairs, giant flea markets and the circus Arlette Gruss. The imposing monument to the Girondins in it center consists of two basins, adorned with massive horses and surmounted by a column of 43 meters.
Header image: detail of “Place des Quinconces” by Les Instantanés de Bordeaux
Built on the site of the Château Trompette, which was originally built to establish the power of the Kings of France in Bordeaux after 300 years of English rule, the Place des Quinconces is one of the most important monuments in the city of Bordeaux. Created between 1810 and 1828 it was first called Place Louis XVI then Louis-Philippe, before it took its current name after the Revolution of 1848.
After the demolition of the castle the plan of the esplanade was stopped in 1816. Everything began with the construction of two sequences of residential buildings with uniform façades drawing a semicircle on the west fringes of the square. Six groups of elegant and classic three-storey buildings stand on either side, surmounting an arcaded base. This vast 12-hectare rectangle, the largest in France and probably in Europe, is framed by short tree plantations, from the semicircle to the Garonne.
The Rostral Columns
First symbol and major monument of the Place des Quinconces, the rostral columns, built in 1829 at the end of the esplanade, dominate the Garonne side. Overlooking a monumental staircase, these two works in the Neoclassical style by Pierre-Alexandre Poitevin, are decorated with rostrums or ship bows, recalling the victory of the Roman fleets over those of Carthage, and since ancient times meaning the triumphant mastery of the seas. The Italian ornamentalist Florian Bonino is the creator of the décor including the rostrums, while the two statues at the top of the columns looking toward the Garonne are the work of the sculptor Monsau. One represents the trade and the other navigation.
The Colossal Statues of Montaigne and Montesquieu
Two colossal statues four meters high rise on both sides of the esplanade in honour of the two philosophers Montaigne and Montesquieu. Sculpted by Dominique Félix Maggesi in white marble of Carrara (Italy), they celebrate the functions of the two men in the city of Bordeaux:
“According to the wishes of the municipal council, Michel Eyquem de Montaigne is represented wearing his mayor’s dress, a position he held from 1581 to 1585”, and that “Charles de Secondat, Baron de la Brede and Montesquieu is represented wearing his official costume of President Mortar of the Parliament of Bordeaux, a function he exercised from 1716 to 1726 “.
The Monument to the Girondins
A monument to the memory of the Girondin deputies and in celebration of the Republic was erected in the central position of the hemicycle in 1883. The monument sits on a large base framed by two basins from which emerge valiant horses and colossal groups in bronze, completed only in 1902.
In the centre, a 43 metres high column by Alphonse Dumilatre and Victor Rich carries the angel of freedom breaking the iron chains. Designed in green bronze, these statues consecrate the memory and glory of the Girondins and the triumph of the Republic and the Concorde.
The Legacies of the Second World War
The quadriga of marine horses, symbol of happiness, and the other bronze groups of the Monument to the Girondins, were seized and removed in August 1943 by the German occupants, to fill the need for metals for war production. Found almost intact in the city of Angers in 1945, they were finally returned their original location until 1986.
Place des Quinconces remains one of the largest public spaces in Europe. Large-scale popular and festive events are frequently held here. The square welcomed 62,750 supporters during the 2016 European Football Championship. The freshness of its fountains and the size of its columns make it an unmissable site.