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A little history of Bourgogne gate in Bordeaux

The gate | Patrick Despoix / CC-BY-SA
Arch Louis XIV Napoleon I Bourgogne gate in Bordeaux

A gate...

Let’s go back to the 18th century: city of Bordeaux was, at that time, encumbered with fortified walls and medieval fortresses (the château Trompette and the fort du Hâ).

They had to change this, in this sunny Enlightenment!

Here, near the porte des Salinières ("Salt gate", former name of the gate), we had a harbour full of people and boats which unloaded salty goods ("salt", salinière)...

It was marquis Louis-Urbain Aubert de Tourny, intendant of Bordeaux, who decided to modernize the city.

He wanted to raise a semi-circular square and a huge gate, in 1750. Architect Gabriel drew plans, architect Portier designed it.

Our gate was named after Louis XV’s son, duke of Bourgogne ("Burgundy")... In 1755, the square and the gate were completed.

The decoration consisted first in few military trophies, a crown and lis flowers hold by a muse, the whole thing flanked by a newt and a goddess blowing in a conch.

But the plan was cancelled! So there were neither lis flowers, nor symbol of monarchy... but when French Revolution came, the gate wasn’t damaged, revolutionaries completely ignored it!

... transformed into an arc de triomphe!

Then, they decided to transform the gate into an arc de triomphe, in 1804, to celebrate the new emperor, Napoleon!

At that time, the area around the gate was entirely covered with houses, small shops: they needed to clean that mess! Then, the plan of a sculptor from Lyon, Joseph Chinard, was adopted.

It was a Doric arch made of stone and marble, flanked by a lion and an eagle (the bird took the emperor's chest in his claws) and two low-reliefs representing the Liberty and the Homeland.

But as the building site began, horror! Chinard said he gave his plan to the city of Lyon... for the construction of an arc de triomphe!

Bordeaux arch was raised, though, and even Napoleon visited it in 1808: the legend says the emperor crossed the arc without paying attention to it! The current gate dates back to 1858.

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!