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The Statue of Liberty, one of the most famous monuments in the United States, has been enthroned on Liberty Island in New York since October 28, 1886. But did you know that Paris also has its Statue of Liberty? In fact, the French capital even has five copies of Liberty Enlightening the World!

  • The original plaster model created by Auguste Bartholdi is kept at the Arts et Métiers museum;
  • in the gardens of the same museum, there is a bronze copy of the model;
  • a bronze miniature version welcomes visitors at the entrance to the Orsay museum;
  • a replica of the flame has been enthroned since 1989 in Place de l’Alma;
  • a reproduction of the statue is installed at the end of Swan Island.

It is this last version of the statue that caught my attention because its history is, as we shall see, very much linked to Franco-American friendship.

Flame of the Statue of Liberty, Paris, Alma bridge
Flame of the Statue of Liberty, Paris, Alma bridge. Robert Hoetink / Shutterstock

In 1865, a group of French Republican Americans wanted to offer a gift to the United States as a testimony of Franco-American friendship and to celebrate the centenary of the American Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776). In 1871, the design of the statue was entrusted to Auguste Bartholdi, who saw it as an opportunity to thumb his nose at the Second Empire, which he considered too authoritarian:

“I will fight for freedom, I will call on free people. I will try to glorify the republic there, until I find it one day in our country.”

Bartholdi imagines a statue topped by a seven-pointed crown as a symbol of the seven continents and the seven oceans. The torch evokes the Enlightenment and the tablet symbolizes the law. On the tablet is engraved the date of independence of the United States.

The Statue of Liberty: story of a Franco-American friendship 1

Workshop for the execution of the Statue of Liberty, 25 rue de Chazelles. House Mondurt et Béchet, Gaget, Gauthier & Cie Sccrs. Source : Gallica

Viollet-le-Duc also took part in the design of the Statue but on his death in 1879, Bartholdi called upon a certain Gustave Eiffel to design the structure. The work was built in France before being assembled in the United States. The Americans were asked to prepare the base to house the statue. On October 28, 1886, the statue was inaugurated in New York, facing Europe.

The story of the Statue doesn’t end there! Three years later, in 1889, French citizens living in the United States donated to France a miniature reproduction of the Statue (11.5 meters high compared to 46.5 meters for the original), to celebrate another centennial: that of the French Revolution. On the tablet held by this reproduction were engraved the date of the independence of the United States (July 4, 1776) as well as that of the French Revolution (July 14, 1789).

Initially installed facing the Eiffel Tower, the Statue turned its back on the United States so as not to have to turn its back on the Elysée Palace. In 1937, on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition, it was finally decided to move it to the tip of Swan Island.

Statue of Liberty in Paris symbol of the franco-american friendship
Statue of Liberty in Paris, Cygnes island

To see this statue and feel like you are (a little) in the United States in the middle of Paris, go to Swan Island via the Pont de Grenelle or the Pont de Bir-Hakeim if you want to take advantage of it to take a little stroll on the island!

Header illustration: Frlegros / Shutterstock

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