Scheduled for arrival in the port of New York today (but delivered early, on Thursday) is the second Statue of Liberty that France has sent to the US in the last 135 years. The first, of course, has stood on Liberty Island since its inauguration in 1886 welcoming new arrivals to America’s shores. Following a stopover to stand beside its much taller inspiration (46 m/151 ft.) the shorter replica (2.83 m/9.3 ft.) will continue on to Washington, DC where it will be displayed to the public in the ornamental gardens, visible from the street, at the residence of the French ambassador to America. That seems fitting since Ambassador Philippe Étienne was instrumental from the beginning of the process.
Until a couple of months ago the statue could be seen in Paris at the Musée des Arts et Métiers before it was placed into a custom-built “sarcophagus” to be loaded onto a ship in the port of Le Havre on the Normandy coast. The departure was scheduled to coincide with the anniversary of D-Day 1944 that began on that coast and led to the liberation of France and then the rest of western Europe.
The official statement from the government about why they are sending the statue is, “to pay tribute to all those who, on both sides of the Atlantic, allowed the construction of the Statue of Liberty and who fought for what it symbolizes throughout the world. Ambassador Étienne continued, “We wanted to reconnect with this Franco-American story. This statue is a double symbol of freedom but also of welcome.”
We know of two other replicas of the Statue of Liberty in France, both of which you can see in the attached photos. At the top of this post is the one in Bordeaux, a city that has surprisingly close connections with the US as we wrote about in Secret Bordeaux. The photo on the right, with Bill’s creative touch, was taken during a rainy evening Seine river cruise in Paris as we passed l’île aux Cygnes. Although we don’t have a copy of the statue in Carcassonne, we still have an association with its creation: the architect who designed the internal structure of Lady Liberty in 1879, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, had 30 years earlier begun the plans for the restoration of the medieval walled city that we see today.
The original Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French people to commemorate American independence. Although this replica will be returned to the Paris museum in 10 years, the gesture is no less significant. Happy 4th of July!