Located on Place des Quinconces in Bordeaux, France, the Monument aux Girondins overlooks one of the busiest squares of the city and is considered as one of the landmarks of Bordeaux. Built between 1894 and 1902, it was dedicated in the memory of the Girondists, a loosely knit political faction during the French Revolution, who were originally a part of France’s Legislative Assembly.
The Girondins, also known Girondists or Gironde initially campaigned for the end of the monarchy, but then resisted the spiraling momentum of the Revolution, which caused a conflict with the more radical group, called the Montagnards. Everybody started to blame the Girodins profusely and charged them for the defeats suffered by the army in the spring of 1793.
They became more unpopular by their refusal to respond to the economic demands of the Parisian workers. In fact, the fall of the Girondins was mainly caused by their reluctance to adopt emergency measures for the defense of the Revolution and to provide for the economic demands of the working class, policies that the Montagnards carried out. On May 31, there was a popular rising against them in Paris, which ended when the Convention, surrounded by armed insurgents, ordered the arrest of 29 Girondin deputies on June 2. With the promulgation of the infamous Reign of Terror by the ruling Montagnards, 21 of the arrested Girondins were tried before the Revolutionary Tribunal and were guillotined on October 31. It took 36 minutes to cut off 22 heads.
In 1881, the city council of Bordeaux decided to erect a monument to commemorate the memory of the deputies of the group of the Girondins. Later, on 29th March of1887, the centre of the aisles of Toumy was chosen as the site of a monument surmounted by a statue of Republic and on June 10 following, by decree, a competition was opened to all the French artists regarding a proposal for the project. The presentation of the second placed competitor sculptor Achille Dumilatre and architect Deverin, entitled ‘gloria victis’, or glory to the vanquished was selected. The presentation was later sanctioned and retained after being reviewed by Dumilâtre and the architect Victor Rich.
During the same time, discussions were going on to adorn the Quinconces square with another project, a monumental fountain commissioned from Bartholdi. The fountain of Bartholdi was actually created in 1888, but the city council of Bordeaux rejected the proposal due to its high price and the project was shifted to the city of Lyon. Following the finalization of the erection of the Monument aux Girondins, the city council decided to amalgamate the two projects into one. Finally, the works started in 1894 with the erection of scaffolding and ended in 1902.
Monument aux Girondins, standing proudly 54 metres high in sky of Bordeaux, is richly adorned with an intricate bronze statue representing Lady Liberty, breaking free of her shackles and gracing Bordeaux with her palm of victory. The beauty of the column is highly magnified by a colossal fountain and two basins, erected at the base of the column. The fountain of Bartholdi includes the statue of the Republic, crowned with laurels, holds a scepter in her right hand, emblem of the civil and military power. In her left hand she holds a ball, surmounted by three figurines symbolizing Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Unfortunately, these figurines have been stolen.
Apart from the statue of the Republic, the fountain of Bartholdi also consists of a series of dramatic bronze sculptures of charging horses, each signifying a different aspect of French society. The south-facing side honors the ‘Triumph of the Republic’ and focuses on work, security, power, obligatory education and the victory over ignorance, vice and lies, while the north-facing side is dedicated to peace, fraternity, trade, arts and abundance, ultimately representing the Triumph of the Concord.
In1942, during the Occupation, the Nazis took out the statues from the fountain, probably with the intention to melt them into cannons. Nevertheless, that never happened and after the Liberation, they were found intact in the city of Angers. However, in 1944, instead of returning the statues to Bordeaux, they were partially abandoned somewhere nearby and only in 1968 they were finally restored and re-installed to their original location.
Since 16 March, 2011, Monument aux Girondins has been classified as a historical monument.