Place Stanislas in Nancy, one of the most beautiful squares in the world

Place Stanislas is a famous French esplanade located in the city of Nancy, in the Grand-Est region. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983, its construction dates back to the 18th century and it owes its name to its creator, the former Duke of Lorraine, Stanislas Leszczynski. Elected 4th most beautiful place in the world by the Lonely Planet guide in 2013, it attracts every year many French and international tourists who come to visit the jewel of the city of Nancy. Composed of three squares, its classical style architecture is highlighted by the famous rococo style golden grills designed by Jean Lamour. In this article, let’s discover this emblematic Royal Square and the architectural elements that make it up.

The origins of the Place Stanislas in Nancy

In 1751, in order to honor his son-in-law Louis XV king of France, Stanislas Leszczynski, duke of Lorraine, plans to build a new royal square in Nancy. Wishing to combine the administrative services of the city and the places of entertainment, he chose as site the old esplanade which separates the old city from the new city erected by Charles III. The construction project for the new square was entrusted to Emmanuel Héré, the king’s first architect. The first stone was laid on March 18, 1752 and the work took a little more than 3 years. The inauguration of the Stanislas square took place on November 26, 1755 and the Duke of Lorraine left the castle of Lunéville to settle in the castle of Malgrange. The buildings around the square respect the order of the architect Jules-Ardoin Mansart and are realized in a classical style. Multi-story buildings with regular facades are reminiscent of the Place Vendôme and Place de la Concorde in Paris. Some elements of baroque inspiration also complete the classical style of the square, such as the Héré Arch. The Place Stanislas is surrounded by six monumental wrought iron gates designed by Jean Lamour.

The Place de la Carrière

The Place Stanislas in Nancy is made up of three squares, including the famous Place de la Carrière, whose origins date back to the 16th century. Separated by the rue Héré and by the Arc Héré, a building dating from the 18th century, the Place de la Carrière is located in the extension of the Place Stanislas. In the past, the esplanade was used for games, tournaments and equestrian activities. At the end of the 16th century, a Royal Gate was dug into the ramparts of the old city, in order to communicate with the inhabitants of the new city. In 1751, Stanislas decided to join the “old town” to the “new town” by connecting the Place de la Carrière, the Royal Gate and a vast esplanade into a single square: the Place Stanislas. The government palace, formerly called the stewardship palace, is built to the north of the site. The Héré Hotel, also known as the Héré Pavilion, has been classified as a historical monument since May 1928.

The statue of Stanislas Leszczynski replaced that of Louis XV in 1831
The statue of Stanislas Leszczynski replaced that of Louis XV in 1831

The Place d’Alliance in Nancy

Located in the new town of Nancy, the Place d’Alliance owes its name to the commemoration of the Franco-Austrian alliance treaty of 1756. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983, it can be identified by its central fountain, its double row of century-old lime trees and the magnificent mansions that line it. At the time of its construction, the Place d’Alliance housed the vegetable garden of the Duchy of Lorraine, following the dismantling of the ramparts of the old city by Duke Leopold I. Its modest dimensions of 80 meters by 60 meters make it the smallest of the three squares. The fountain surrounded by a basin and sculpted by Paul-Louis Cyfflé is classified as a historical monument since 1925. Just as on the Place de la Carrière, private mansions with common architecture line the Place d’Alliance.

The town hall on Place Stanislas

Located on the south side and 98 meters long, the city hall is the largest of the buildings on the Place Stanislas. Its facade is decorated with the Leszczynski coat of arms and the coat of arms of the city of Nancy. A central clock is framed by two statues embodying justice and prudence. The interior of the building has been refurbished over the years, but today only the vestibule, the staircase and the square salon remain. The entrance is through a vestibule and its staircase with two curves was created by Jean Lamour, to whom we owe notably the monumental wrought iron gates of the square. Classified as a historical monument since 1886, the building has housed the Nancy City Hall since its construction.

The National Opera of Lorraine

Located at number 4 of the Place Stanislas, the National Opera of Lorraine is the pavilion facing the Amphitrite fountain. Built in 1753 by the architect Jean-François de la Borde, it first housed the farmhouse, before being sold as national property after the French Revolution. For more than a century, the building also housed the bishopric until the beginning of the 20th century. But following the destruction of the Comedy Theater located on the other side of the square, the State took possession of the building again in 1909 to install the new theater. On October 14, 1919, the National Opera of Lorraine, whose interior decorations were inspired by the Garnier Opera, was inaugurated during the performance of Segurd, Ernest Reye’s show.

The Nancy Museum of Fine Arts

Located at number 3 of the square, near the Neptune fountain, the Fine Arts Museum first housed the College of Medicine and Surgery of Nancy, before hosting the Comedy Theater, until its destruction during the fire of October 4, 1906. Following its renovation, the building became the city’s museum of painting and sculpture. In 1936, the pavilion was modernized and expanded. It benefits from an extension in the form of a wing on two levels, a development marked by its double staircase of art deco type. Nearly 40,000 works and collections are on display, consisting mainly of European graphic arts and paintings. The Nancy Museum of Fine Arts welcomes more than 100,000 visitors each year.

The Neptune fountain represents God overhanging children riding on dolphins
The Neptune fountain represents God overhanging children riding on dolphins

The statue of Stanislas

Located in the center of the square, the statue of Stanislas was inaugurated in 1831, replacing the statue of Louis XV destroyed during the French Revolution. Made in bronze by the sculptor Georges Jacquot, it represents the monarch in Polish dress with a royal coat. The story goes that Stanislas Leszczynski is symbolically pointing his finger at the effigy of Louis XV, represented in medallion on the golden bas-relief at the top of the Héré Arch, located right in front of the statue.

The Héré Arch in Nancy

Located on the north side of Place Stanislas, at the end of Rue Héré, the Arc is built on the site of the former Royal Gate built by Louis XIV and destroyed in 1752 by Stanislas Leszczynski. Designed by Emmanuel Héré, it reproduces the Arch of the Porte Saint-Antoine in Paris and is inspired by the Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome. Completed in 1755, the Héré Arch thus evokes war and peace symbolized by olive and laurel branches on its cornice. Initially, the Arch, which was in fact a royal gate, was connected to the ramparts by galleries and its top was part of the covered way. The walls that surrounded it were knocked down in 1772 and 1847. Isolated, the door becomes an Arc de Triomphe. The Héré Arch was classified as a historical monument in 1923.

The two fountains of the Place Stanislas

Two symmetrical fountains representing Neptune and Amphitrite are placed at the corners of the Place Stanislas. In rococo style, these fountains are surmounted by an ironwork portico designed by Jean Lamour. Made of lead to save money, the fountains were the first decorative elements of the square to be classified as historical monuments. The Amphitrite fountain represents a naked woman and its two lateral fountains were removed at the end of the 18th century, in order to open an access to the park of the nursery. The Neptune fountain represents a statue of a god brandishing a trident and overlooking children riding on dolphins. The fountain of Neptune is framed by two small fountains also representing children.

Nancy, the city of golden doors

Six monumental gates made by the ironworker Jean Lamour allow access to the Place Stanislas in Nancy, nicknamed “the city of golden doors”. Like the fountains, the wrought iron gates are in the art rococo style and gilded with gold leaf. Numerous symbols and decorations adorn the wrought iron gates, such as the rooster or the fleur-de-lis, which remind us of France. Jean Lamour also designed the porticoes and balconies of the Nancy city hall. All his creations constitute a homogeneous and refined whole allowing the famous locksmith to fully express his art of drawing.

Every year, the city of Nancy organizes the Saint-Nicolas on its famous square, the traditional end of year celebration. For more information, visit www.nancy.fr

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