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FRENCH HISTORY

Where to find France’s 12 Statues of Liberty

Most people think of New York when they think of the Statue of Liberty, but in fact there are representations of the famous torch-bearer all over France too. Here's where to find them.

The Statue of Liberty stands tall above New York.
The Statue of Liberty stands tall above New York. France has many replicas of its own. (Photo by BRUCE BENNETT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

The Statue of Liberty, towering 93 metres tall on New York’s Liberty Island, is a global icon. 

It shows the figure of Libertas, a Roman goddess, holding a torch in her right hand and the US Declaration of independence in the other. Shackles and chains lay broken at her feet. For centuries, the statue was seen as a symbol of freedom for immigrants crossing the Atlantic in search of the American dream. 

READ MORE Eleven things the French have given America

The statue itself was gifted to the United States by France in the 1880s as a way to commemorate the alliance between the two countries that stretched back to the American Revolution against the British – during this conflict, France sent more soldiers than the Americans and the British combined. 

It was the brainchild of a French political thinker and anti-slavery activist, Édouard de Laboulaye, who thought that the United States deserved a gift after abolishing slavery. He believed that America should serve as a beacon of liberty to the rest of the world – France at the time was ruled with an iron-fist under Napoleon III. 

The statue itself was designed by a French sculptor called Frédéric August Bartholdi, while the engineering was handled by Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel tower fame). Pieces of the statue were constructed in Paris and shipped to New York and before being assembled.

READ MORE Campaign launched to fund new Statue of Liberty in Brittany

Considering the French concept and craftsmanship behind the celebrated design, it is perhaps no surprise that replicas of the famous statue soon began springing up all over France.

France has at least 12 copies of the Statue of Liberty – or La Liberté éclairant le monde (Liberty illuminating the world) in French. 

Here is where you will find them: 

Paris 

The most famous replica of the Statue of Liberty sits on the Île aux Cygnes on the Seine river in the city centre. This version was actually a gift from the United States to France in 1889, to celebrate 100 years since the French Revolution. The tablet carried by Lady Liberty is different to the New York statue and carries the dates of the US Declaration of Independence and the date of the storming of the Bastille – 14th July 1789. 

This statue was originally faced East, giving the lady a nice view of the Eiffel Tower – in 1937 however, she was turned towards the west to face her older sister in New York. 

 
A replica of the Statue of Liberty stands on Paris' Ile de Cygnes during sunset

A replica of the Statue of Liberty stands on Paris’ Île aux Cygnes during sunset (Photo by LIONEL BONAVENTURE / AFP)

Because the statue on the Île aux Cygnes is easily accessible via the Grenelle bridge in the 15th arrondissement, it is regularly used by people trying to make a striking visual protest.

Amnesty International activists protest the continued operation of Guantanamo bay, behind the Statue of Liberty on the Île aux Cygnes (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

Bartholdi himself also built a 1/16 scale replica of the Statue of Liberty for the Exposition Universelle of 1900. This model now stands proud in the entrance hall to the Musée d’Orsay – a bronze replica of this model can also be found in the Jardin du Luxembourg. 

The Statue of Liberty is pictured during a ceremony at the Quai d’Orsay museum in Paris. (Photo by THOMAS SAMSON / AFP)

There is also a life size copy of the Statue of Liberty torch – known as the Flame of Liberty – on the entrance to the Pont de l’Alma tunnel. It was gifted to France by the United States. The flame has since become a memorial to Princess Diana, who died in the tunnel following a car crash in 1997. 

The Liberty Torch in Paris now serves as an unofficial memorial to Princesse Diana.

The Liberty Torch in Paris now serves as an unofficial memorial to Princesse Diana. (Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)
 

Outside Paris

Bordeaux

Bordeaux’s Place Picard has had a turbulent history when it comes to the statue. In 1888, Bartholdi himself donated a replica to the city, which was mounted in this square. This version was seized and melted down by the Nazis during WWII. It was eventually replaced in 2000 and a plaque was later added to commemorate victims of the 9/11 attacks.

Since being mounted, this new statue has been repeatedly vandalised – and local legend has it that a prankster once organised a spate of stunts, arriving in the dead of night to dress it in a burqa, a Guantanamo prisoner’s outfit and in a housekeeper’s uniform. 

Nice

The Statue of Liberty in Nice is not much more than one metre tall. It was one of the first models of the statue ever made by Bartholdi, who began building small and progressively got bigger and bigger until the New York version was made. You can find it on the Quai des Etats-Unis on the seafront.

Barentin

You can find a 13.5 metre replica of the statue in the northern French town of Barentin, near Rouen. It was built as a prop for a film called Le Cerveau (The Brain), which starred the late actor Jean-Paul Belmondo. It is made out of polyester and resin and sits outside a McDonald’s. 

France gave America the Statue of Liberty - America gave France McDonalds.

France gave America the Statue of Liberty – America gave France McDonald’s. The two symbols come together in the northern French town of Barentin. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

READ MORE Jean-Paul Belmondo, icon of French New Wave cinema, dies at 88

Colmar

A 12 metre version of the statue stands in Colmar, eastern France, which is the city where Bartholdi was born. This replica was dedicated in 2004, to mark the centenary of the sculptor’s death. 

The Statue of Liberty in Colmar was given a new outfit by yellow vest protestors back in 2019. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)
 
Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer

A gold-covered iron replica of the statue can also be found in the French town of Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer, in the southern Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.

It stands at 2.5 metres tall – just a little over the size of one of the index fingers of the original statue. 

Poitiers

Another model of the statue can be found in the south west town of Poitiers. It was built in 1903 as a memorial to Jean-Baptiste Breton – a French general who was guillotined for plotting against Louis XVIII (a French king restored after the revolution). 

Lunel

The original replica that once stood in the small town of Lunel, in south east of France, was melted down for weapons during WWII. A new version was inaugurated in 1989 to mark two centuries since the passing of the French revolution. 

Chaumont

A miniature replica can also be found at the Chaumont military base – this served as a  home to the US air force during the Cold War. Today, it is occupied by a French artillery regiment but the mini Statue of Liberty remains.

Roybon

An original replica made by Bartholdi himself is also displayed in the town of Roybon, near Grenoble. Local authorities are currently fundraising to renovate the now rather weather-beaten art work. 

The Statue of Liberty in Roybon is crying out for some maintenance work.

The Statue of Liberty in Roybon is crying out for some maintenance work. (Photo by PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP)

Châteauneuf-la-Forêt

Another Statue of Liberty can be found in the village of Châteauneuf-la-Forêt, near the city of Limoges. It rests atop a plinth inscribed with the names of village residents who lost their life fighting in the two world wars. 

International locations 

There are other Statue of Liberty replicas in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Ecuador, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Kosovo, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Ukraine, the United States and Vietnam. 

Have you seen other representations of Lady Liberty in France? Share your sightings in the comments below.

Member comments

  1. Hey, you missed one in Lugné, part of the commune of Cessenon-sur-Orb about 30km north west of Béziers. It’s about 2.5m tall.

  2. There was also one in the Musée des Arts et Métiers when I visited a few months ago. A second one at that museum used to be out in the courtyard, but I believe that’s the one that was given to the US recently…

  3. There’s one in Ourville-en-Caux, too – from French Wikipedia:
    Réplique bleutée de la statue de la Liberté.
    Elle est érigée sur un giratoire de la commune, au carrefour des routes de Fauville-en-Caux, du Grand Bosc et du chemin du Petit Bosc.

  4. The U.S. Statues of Liberty is a gift from the people of France, not the French government. The statue honors, “the Alliance of the Two Nations in achieving the Independence of the United States of America and attests their abiding friendship.”

    Liberty Island and the pedestal were funded by large numbers of small donations, from The American People, not the U.S. govt.

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DISCOVER FRANCE

What you should know about the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis

The town of Saint-Denis to the north of Paris is home of the Stade de France and will play a major role in the 2024 Paris Olympics - but there's far more to know about the suburb and very good reason to visit.

What you should know about the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis

The legend of St Denis

The town of Saint-Denis is of course named after a saint, Saint Denis (pronounced dur-nee in French) in fact. The story of the saint and how he came to have a suburb to the north of Paris named after him is part history, part legend.

The short version is that he came to France a long time ago – some time between the 1st and 3rd century, but The Local wasn’t around then so it’s hard to ascertain from our records the exact dates he lived and died.

He is often referred to as the first Bishop of Paris and story has it that he was executed by being beheaded during a purge of Christians.

His remains ended up in the part of Paris now named after him with some stories saying he was buried there in the grounds of an aristocrat’s manor to avoid the body and head being thrown in the Seine, whilst other stories say he was killed in Montmartre and the angels flew his remains to St Denis.

The beheading of Saint Denis, as captured in an artist’s drawing on the wall of the Pantheon in Paris. 

Another version says St Denis himself picked up his own head and carried it from Montmartre to St Denis. We’ve had trouble confirming this version of the tale with local gendarmes.

Either way Christian followers ended up building a Basilica on the site of his remains and St Denis is officially the patron Saint of France and Paris.

Inhabitants wait in front of the Basilica Cathedral of Saint-Denis during a campaign visit by the French President. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP)

The Basilica 

The Basilica is in fact a Cathedral and whilst most visitors to Paris won’t venture past the Sacre Coeur or Notre Dame (when it was open) the Basilica is well worth a short Metro trip north.

Some very important people are buried in the fantastic Basilica as its website says: 

“Forty-two kings, thirty-two queens, sixty-three princes and princesses and ten men of the kingdom rest in peace there. With over seventy recumbent effigies and monumental tombs, the royal necropolis of the basilica is today the most significant group of funerary sculptures from the 12th to the 16th century in Europe,” it says.

And if you do visit then look out for the 12th and 19th-century stained glass windows.

The abbey church became a cathedral in 1966 and is the seat of the Bishop of Saint-Denis. There are controversial plans to rebuild the 86-metre (282-foot) tall spire, which had to be dismantled in the 19th century.

The project, initiated more than 30 years ago, was to have begun in May 2020 and could cost up to €30 million – if it goes ahead.

It’s not the only cultural site in the town, there’s also the Cité de Cinema and the Museum of Art and History and much more.

There’s a lot more info about the Basilica here.

Population

According to the last census in 2018, Saint-Denis is home to around 112,000 inhabitants. The locals in Saint-Denis are called Dionysiennes (female) or Dionysien (male).

The town is the biggest of 40 communes that make up the département of Seine-Saint-Denis, which is often just known by locals by its number: 93.

It’s one of France’s mostly densely populated areas and is home to a high population of residents with immigrant backgrounds.

It’s a solid left-wing town

Given it’s a solid working-class town in a solid working-class, immigrant département it’s no surprise perhaps that locals vote for left-wing parties (and not the far-right).

Saint-Denis has a socialist mayor Mathieu Hanotin and in the first round of the presidential election in April 2022 some 61 percent of voters opted for far left Jean-Luc Melenchon whilst only 8 percent voted for far right Marine Le Pen.

In the second round centrist Emmanuel Macron won 79 percent of the vote and Le Pen 21 percent – a far bigger margin of victory for the president than the overall national score of 58.5 percent to 41.5 percent.

Olympic party

The town of Saint-Denis will play a key role for the 2024 Olympics. For a start the headquarters of the organising team is already based there at the Pulse building.

An aerial picture taken aboard an helicopter on July 20, 2010 shows a view of the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, outside Paris. AFP PHOTO BORIS HORVAT (Photo by BORIS HORVAT / AFP)

The town will also be home to one of two aquatic centres for the Olympics, the athletes’ village and of course the athletics will be at the Stade de France – the national stadium where the country’s football and rugby teams play.

This photograph shows the construction of the future olympic village at the “UniverSeine” district, in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, during an interdepartmental committee for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games on November 15, 2021. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

As part of the bid, officials were keen to stress that the aquatic venue will be handed over to the public at the end of the games so local residents can make the most of it. Hundreds of other small sporting venues are planned to be built in Saint-Denis and other surrounding towns.

The arrival of the Games will also lead to improvements in public transport links as well as renovations and upgrades to much of Saint-Denis. It is hoped the construction of venues and the hosting of the Games will also help create thousands of jobs in the area and give a huge boost to the local economy.

The Saint-Denis canal

Saint Denis is also home to the Saint-Denis canal, which runs past the Stade de France stadium. It was built on Napoleon’s orders in the early 19th century.

It links the Seine River to the Canal de L’Ourq which then joins the Seine River again at the Bassin de L’Arsenal and was ordered to be built by Napoleon to allow river traffic to avoid having to pass through central Paris.

The tow path along the canal has been made into a cycle route and footpath that helps cyclists get from Saint-Denis to central Paris without having to navigate the main roads.

A river shuttle “Le Millenaire” prepares to dock at the Saint-Denis canal, on December 10, 2012, in Paris. At left a T3b tramway operates on a test run. AFP PHOTO JACQUES DEMARTHON (Photo by JACQUES DEMARTHON / AFP)

And he’s a map of where it is in relation to central Paris and how to get there:

For more information about Saint-Denis and to find oput more reasons to visit you can visit this website which is in English.

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