Colonne Vendôme is a bronze column 44.3 metres high and an average of about 3.60 metres in diameter, placed on a pedestal and surmounted by a statue of Napoleon. It’s located in the centre of the Vendôme square, in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. The monument was erected by Napoleon to commemorate the Battle of Austerlitz.
It was inspired by Trajan’s Column located in Rome. Over the years, the column received the names of Austerlitz, then the Victory Column and the Column of the Grand Army. Do not confuse it with the Column of the Grand Army, which is near Boulogne-sur-Mer.
The monument is fully cast in bronze, with only the base made of porphyry. The official propaganda says that decorative elements and reliefs on the 280-metre-high helix are made of 1200 cannons captured from the enemy in the battle of Austerlitz. The monument has an internal staircase, which allows the visitors to get to the platform atop of it.
Napoleon wasn’t always on top. In this case, take it literally. The first man on the column was Louis XIV, but in 1792 French Revolution wiped the Sun King off the monument. The emperor appeared there 18 years later, but his effigy has been changed several times since then. He was even taken down twice.
The first statue of Napoleon as Caesar was made by sculptor Antoine-Denis Chaudet (1763-1810). It was cast in 1808 and placed at the top of the column on 5 August 1810. Four years later, during the occupation of Paris by Allied troops, the statue was removed and replaced with a white flag at the time of the Bourbon Restoration. In 1818, it was melted down to make the equestrian statue of Henri IV on the Pont Neuf.
The next statue of the emperor was placed on the column in the 1830s, under the July Monarchy. During the insurrection of the Commune of Paris, on 16th may 1871, the whole monument was cut down. After the fall of the Commune, the new president, Marshal MacMahon, decided in May 1873 to rebuild the column. The last Napoleonic effigy, so far, is the version made 4 years later, which is the almost exact copy of the first statue from the beginning of the 19th century.