Nancy, the temporary residence of a king without a kingdom – Stanislas Leszczynski, later to become Duke of Lorraine – is paradoxically the oldest and most typical example of a modern capital where an enlightened monarch proved to be sensitive to the needs of the public. Built between 1752 and 1756 by a brilliant team led by the architect Héré, this was a carefully conceived project that succeeded in creating a capital that not only enhanced the sovereign's prestige but was also functional.
© Editions Gelbart
The three squares in Nancy represent a unique artistic achievement, a masterpiece of the creative genius. Nancy is the oldest and most typical example of a modern capital where an enlightened monarch proved to be sensitive to the needs of the public. Built between 1752 and 1756 by a brilliant team led by the architect Heré, this was a carefully conceived project that succeeded in creating a capital that not only enhanced the sovereign's prestige but was also functional. It is an outstanding example of a type of structure which illustrates a significant stage in history.
At the end of the 17th century the French, who had occupied Nancy, established a means of communication with the New Town by opening a gate in the walls, calling it the Royal Gate in honour of Louis XIV. Stanislas Leszczynski, unhappy pretender to the Polish throne and father-in-law of Louis XV, King of France, received as a recompense for his abdication the Dukedom of Lorraine for life. He 'reigned' there peacefully from 1737 to 1766. It was during the reign of Stanislas that the link between the Old Town and the New Town took a concrete form. He wished to fuse the two cities that made up his capital: the Old City and the New City (created by Charles III in 15881) by organizing their junctures around a double axis: one east - west bounded by the Portes Sainte-Catherine and Stanislas, forming the northern limit of the new city, and the other north-south, marking the junction between the quarter with the Ducal Palace and the new urban centre, with its Place Royale dedicated to Louis XV, the present Place Stanislas. The works which resulted from the urbanization of Nancy are the most beautiful creations of the patronage of this prince.
The project was carried out between 1752 and 1756 by a brilliant team under the direction of the architect Heré, composed of the ironworker Jean Lamour and the sculptors Cuibal and Cyfflé; this was a project of extreme coherence which culminated in monumental perfection. The foundation stone of the first building in the square was officially laid in March 1752 and the royal square solemnly inaugurated in November 1755.
In addition to some prestigious architecture conceived to exalt a sovereign with its triumphal arches, statues, and fountains, the project for Nancy was in the interests of the public with its three squares that give to the town hall, the courts of law, and the Palais des Fermes as well as to the administrative centre, the school of medicine, the botanical gardens, the library, the academy, the theatre, the public garden, and many cafes and billiard halls.
At the beginning a bronze statue of Louis XV in the uniform of a Roman general, the work of Guibal and Cyfflé, decorated the centre of the square. The statue, along with the allegorical figures that surrounded it, disappeared during the French Revolution and it was only in 1851 that a new statue, this time of Stanislas, was erected in its place.
The need to modernize the ramparts in the mid-16th century led to an extension of the town towards the east, and thus the creation of a new square, the Place Neuve de la Carrière. The square is closed to the north by the Palais du Gouverneur (the former Palais de l'Intendance), set in a semicircle of columns, and to the south by a triumphal arch. At the south end, opposite the Beauvau-Craon Mansion by Boffrand, Emmanuel Heré built a copy of it for the Bourse (stock exchange). Starting from these two buildings, two long rows of houses with a few rocaille decorations stretch along either side of the square as far as two identical houses.
Alliance Square (Place de l'Alliance), was originally called Saint Stanislas Square; it is characterized by a Baroque fountain by Cyfflé. Its name is symbolic of the alliance between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and France in 1756. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC