The Statue of Liberty in France

The Statue of Liberty, whose full name is Liberty Enlightening the World was one of the greatest gifts ever given. The original was given by the people of France to the United States in 1886 and was installed in New York’s harbor but did you know there are lots of Lady Libertys in France today? There are at least 25 in France and even more throughout the world.

In Paris alone there are quite a few. The one you need to know about is the one on the Allée des Cygnes which was a gift from the American community of Paris to Paris to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution. On her tablet is the dates July 14, 1789, as well as July 4, 1776. Oliver Gee of the Earful Tower has covered five of the Parisian statues.

In addition there is another one on the roof of a peniche near the Eiffel Tower and one in the Musée d’Orsay. Yet another is very tiny and hard to see; it is incrusted in the torso of César’s Cenataure (place Michel Debré Paris 6th) near his left shoulder.

You can learn about the contruction of the statue at an exhibit in the museum of Arts et Metiers (National Museum of Technical Innovation ) in Paris’ 3rd arrondissement. The museum presents models and photos showing how the statue was enlarged from a small model to its monumental scale (the biggest metal statue in the world at the time!) and then built, using various techniques including plaster and wood to mold the copper cladding. The interior structure of this 46 meter monument was conceived by the engineer Gustave Eiffel to withstand the winds in New York Harbor. Eiffel applied his experience in constructing bridge pylons. The statue was actually built in a workshop in Paris’ ninth arrondissement then dismantled into 300 pieces for shipping to New York where it was attached to Eiffel’s structure using 300,000 rivets.

The statue was financed by contributions from the French people and the stone pedestal, which nearly doubles the height of the monument, by American donations.

Liberty was sculpted by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, a French man who spent 21 years on this project starting with his (and Edouard de la Boulaye’s) idea which germed in 1865 to the inauguration in 1886. The model for Liberty’s face was Bartholdi’s own mother. The seven spikes of the crown represent the seven continents and seas. Each of her fingers is a tall as a person. On inauguration day it was hard to have the whole statue covered to then unveil it, so it was decided that just the face would be covered with a huge French flag. President Grover Cleveland was present, a holiday in New York was declared, parades were marched, and speeches were delivered. Then came the unveiling. Bartholdi climbed to the top of the statue and up into the arm and pulled the string. He was a bit in advance of his cue and the thunderous cheers interupted President Cleveland’s speech for a full fifteen minutes.

Statue of Liberty
Un veiling Liberty drawn by Jada Rowland from the children’s book The Statue of Liberty which is available at FUSAC’s Bill & Rosa’s Book Room.

Liberty did cause some discontent! But in fact it was her inauguration that made some women mad. The Suffragettes noted that there were just two women amongst the dignitaries invited to the inauguration. A group of women chartered a boat and managed to approach the island on which the statue stood to make their voices heard.

In honor of Liberty’s 134th birthday on the 28th of October here’s a compilation of some of the other Statues of Liberty in France and how they came to be.

Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty in Chateauneuf-la-Foret
  • Gourin, Morbihan department: Probably the most recent statue of Liberty as it was inaugurated just this year on 24 June 2020. It is located near the town hall on the Victory square. It is dedicated to the large number of emigrants that left this town for the United States. This bronze mesures 2,90m and is a copy of the 1889 Jardin du Luxembourg statue. The mold was made by les Musées nationaux de Paris and the casting by the Fondery Chapon in Bobigny.
  • Cléguérec: also in the Morbihan department was founded in 1875 in honor of Maréchal des logis Pobéguin
  • Chateauneuf-la-Foret: near the city of Limoges in the area of Haute-Vienne, Limousin A Lady Liberty graces the monument to the dead of the First and Second World Wars
  • Roybon: near Grenoble
  • Cambrin: in the Pas-de-Calais. The three-meter statue is part of the city’s monument to the dead soldiers
  • Lyon: a terra cotta version is in The Musée des beaux-arts. It was likely one of the 200 clay models with Bartholdi’s signature that were sold to raise money for the project.
  • Cessenon: Hérault department. A statue originally from the ocean liner Maxim’s des mers.
  • Barentin: near Rouen. The polyester copy was made for a French movie, Le Cerveau (“The Brain”), directed by Gérard Oury and with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Bourvil.
  • Nice: Installed on the quai des Etats-Unis in 2014
  • Bordeaux, Gironde: Another replica is a 2.5 m (8.2 ft) statue in the city of Bordeaux. The first Bordeaux statue was seized and melted down by the Nazis in World War II. The statue was replaced in 2000 and a plaque was added to commemorate the victims of the 11 September terrorist attacks. On the night of 25 March 2003, unknown vandals poured red paint and gasoline on the replica and set it on fire. The vandals also cracked the pedestal of the plaque. The mayor of Bordeaux, former prime minister Alain Juppé, condemned the attack.
  • Soulac-sur-Mer, Gironde: Inaugurated on the seaside in 1989.
  • Colmar: the Alsacian city where sculptor Auguste Bartholdi was born. The12 meter tall replica was dedicated on 4 July 2004, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death. It stands at the traffic circle a the north entrance of the city. The Bartholdi Museum, located in the house where the sculptor was born, contains numerous models of various sizes made by Bartholdi during the process of designing the statue.
  • Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer: Frédéric Bartholdi donated a copy of the Statue of Liberty to the town square in 1900.
  • Poitiers: A slightly different design with an unusual torch and crown with just 6 spikes. Inaugurated in 1903 on place de la Liberté.
  • Lunel, another in the middle of a roundabout and in the Hérault department. It was a replacement recreated to commemorate the Bicentenial of the French Revolution. The original statue in Lunel was destroyed during WWII.
  • Narbonne, The blue painted iron statue was originally part of the Liberté Motel, but now stands outside a warehouse waiting for a new home
  • Chaumont, Haute Marne, is a miniature replica in the flag plaza of the former Chaumont Air Base. This was the home of the US 48th Tactical Fighter Wing, now based at Lakenheath, England, with its own statue at the flag plaza. The 48th TFW is the only USAF wing with a name: “The Statue of Liberty Wing”.
  • Saint-Étienne, Loire: place Jules Ferry, 1915. The flame has been re placed by an egg-shaped electric light
  • Saint-Affrique, Aveyron: Liberty square
  • Blérancourt, the Franco-American Museum has a terra cotta copy by Bartholdi which is inscribed as a gift to the captain of the ship that carried the statue to the United States
Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty in Colmar