A Brief History of the Champ de Mars in Paris
What is the Champ de Mars?
The Champ de Mars is a 18th-century parade ground with spectacular views of the Eiffel Tower, which has become a popular meeting ground for demonstrations and events.
Champ de Mars History
You can’t talk about the Champ de Mars without acknowledging the Eiffel Tower that dominates the skyline to the northwest of the park. Each night a light show sparkles from Paris’s most iconic monument; locals and tourists alike gather at the Champ de Mars to enjoy the spectacle. Yet over the centuries there have been other reasons to meet here. At the southeast end of the park opposite the tower stands the École Militaire (or ‘Military Academy’), built in the mid-18th century. The École brought about the existence of the Champ de Mars: soldiers used the open field for military drills and marching practice, which led to the space being named the Field of Mars after the Roman god of war, and the equivalent space for military exercises in ancient Rome.
Over the centuries, the area has been a popular meeting ground for demonstrations and events. During the ‘Champ de Mars massacre’ in July 1791, National Guard soldiers opened fire on a crowd of republican protestors who had gathered here. More recently, the area has played host to supporters of the Black Lives Matter and gilets jaunes (or ‘yellow vests’) movements.
Along the southeast end of the park, near the Military Academy, runs the Mur de la Paix (or ‘Wall of Peace’), a striking installation created by artists Clara Halter and Jean-Michel Wilmotte. Inspired by the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, it was erected in 2000 and features a large glass façade decorated with the word ‘peace’ in nearly 50 languages. Visitors are encouraged to write their own messages of peace and tuck them into the chinks of the wall. The installation celebrates peace in a place that has for centuries symbolised war.
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