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.
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.
In diplomatic circles, American often refers to France as “our oldest ally”.
The statue 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 and his gift also contained a dig at the French political establishment, which 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.