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Visiting Place Stanislas at Nancy, eastern France: 18th century architectural gem

Updated on January 6, 2014
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Place Stanislas, Nancy
Place Stanislas, Nancy | Source
Place Stanislas, Nancy
Place Stanislas, Nancy | Source
Map location of the Nancy 'arrondissement', in Lorraine, France
Map location of the Nancy 'arrondissement', in Lorraine, France | Source

Created by Stanislas Leszcynski, King of Poland and Duke of Lorraine

In the city of Nancy in Lorraine, in what is now eastern France, Duke Stanislas Leszczynski (1677-1766), also King of Poland, created a magnificent square in the years 1751-1755. A statue of the Duke stands in the middle of the square.

As Duke Stanislas 's architect for this square, he chose Emmanuel Héré de Corny (1705-1763). Originally the square was supposed to be the place Royale in honour of Stanislas 's son-in-law, King Louis XV of France. At the French Revolution, with Nancy by this time part of France, it was renamed place du Peuple (People's Square). Then, after Napoleon I came to power, it was again renamed, this time after Napoleon. But in 1831 it was decided that naming it place Stanislas , after its original creator, was preferable.

Among all the architectural treasures of France that I have seen over a number of decades, Nancy, with its place Stanislas , would probably be numbered among the most impressive. One of its striking features is that, upon creation, the city was not yet part of France. Having said this, in the former Duchy of Lorraine, France was certainly influential, which raises the question of the many faceted nature of sovereignty and borders.

Buildings around the square

Buildings around Place Stanislas include the following ones:

The City Hall (Hôtel de Ville ) and the departmental Prefecture. These are on the south side.

The Opéra-Theâtre and the Grand Hôtel on the east side. Formerly, the Opéra-Theâtre functioned as the bishop's palace (...but whether the morphing of these functions is representative of any common, underlying idea, I would not like to say... .)

The Fine Art Museum (Musée des Beaux Arts ) and the Pavillon Jacquet are on the west.

On the north side, the buildings were deliberately keep low, for defensive reasons: still an issue in 18th century Lorraine. The Arc Héré triumphal arch also stands on this side.

Other noted buildings in Nancy

Among the many historical buildings in Nancy, the twin-towered Cathedral is of particular note. Like Place Stanislas , it was built in the 18th century. Also of note is the 14th century gate known as the Porte de la Craffe . Built in the Gothic style, it is all that remains of extensive fortifications which formerly enclosed the old city, but the gate itself is remarkably intact.

Also worth visiting

Lunéville (distance: 36 kilometres), with its castle and associations with Voltaire , it also has an old synagogue built in 1786.

Metz (distance: 55 kilometres), historic city with an ancient cathedral and a second, monumental, cathedral-like church built under German rule, following annexation of part of Lorraine after 1871.

Verdun (distance: 134 kilometres), with its sombre Ossuary monument commemorating the huge numbers of French fallen at Verdun in World War One.

...

How to get there: Continental Airlines flies from New York Newark to Paris (Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle ), where car rental is available. (Paris-Nancy, distance: 347 kilometres). The French railroad company SNCF maintains services from Paris to Nancy. In addition to Paris air connections, Air France, Delta and KLM , which have a code-sharing agreement, operate flights, via stopovers, from New York to EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg, from where car rental is available (distance from EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg to Nancy: 209 kilometres). Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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