Construction of the square

Foutain on the Place du Château d’Eau

Originally, the Place de la République wasn’t even called the Place de la République. Only in commemoration of an anniversary of the French Revolution was a Place de la République created in Paris. 

In 1811, Pierre-Simon Girard, a French mathematician and engineer (1765-1836), constructed a large fountain on the site of the current Place de la République in Paris. It was, therefore, named the Place du Château d’Eau (“the Water Tower square”). Later, in 1865, the triangular place was transformed into a impressive rectangular one.

Built there in 1867 by Gabriel Davioud, a new fountain was decorated with eight bronze lions. Davioud was a French architect (1824-1881) and a colleague of the Baron Haussmann (1809-1891), who famously was in charge of the renovation of Paris and completely reworked large parts of the city. The current shape of the square dates from this period when the Baron Haussmann gave Paris its distinctive nineteenth-century architecture and shape, privileging the grands boulevards among other features.

In early 1879, the Paris City Council decided to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the French Revolution. It organized an art competition in order to find a perfect monument that would reflect the French Republic. The new monument would be erected on the Place du Château d’Eau.

In the end, the contest winner was the 31-foot-tall, bronze statue of Marianne sculpted by brothers Charles and Léopold Morice. Marianne is, of course, the name given to the allegory of the French Republic and the French Revolution. Her best-known representation is most likely Delacroix’s painting of her bare-chested and leading the (1830) revolutionary charge with the tricolor flag in hand. Here, Marianne holds an olive branch in her right hand and rests her left on an engraved tablet of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The statue was erected on a 75-foot-tall base and surrounded with three statues personifying the values of the French Republic: liberté, equalité and fraternité.

The official inauguration took place in 1883 on Bastille Day (July 14), when the final version of the statue replaced the fountain, and the square came to be known as the Place de la République.

However, traces of the older name can be found in area, too. The Rue du Château d’Eau still to this day leads away from the Place de la République to metro station Château d’Eau. The design of the original fountain featuring lions can even be seen on the platform of the Château d’Eau metro station.

During the first half of the 20th century, metro lines were introduced underneath the square, helping to turn it into the busy metro station it is today. Above ground, and until relevantly recently when the square underwent major replanning, there was also a major traffic roundabout circling the statue itself especially with the rise of automobile traffic at the beginning of the 20th century. The statue had become a simple decoration in the center of the traffic circle, and the square was mostly a crossing point for pedestrians.