Where does the name La Défense come from?

It’s hard to believe, but La Défense, Europe’s largest purpose-built business district, is named after the statue La Défense de Paris, erected in 1883 to commemorate the soldiers who had defended Paris during the Franco-Prussian War.

During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Paris was surrounded by German troops. A “defense of Paris” was organized, resisting to the enemy for more than 6 months. On January 19, 1871, the French troops attempted an ultimate sortie to break the siege. It is the famous battle of Buzenval – in the territory of the communes of Rueil-Malmaison, Garches and Saint-Cloud – which ended in failure.

The armistice was signed on January 28th. The Parisian people, who had defended themselves despite the famine and a particularly cold winter, felt humiliated

In 1879, the Republicans came to power after years of royalist government. To commemorate the heroic defense of Paris against the Prussians, the Prefecture of the Seine (former department of Paris) decided to erect a statue on the historical axis of Paris, where the National Guard had gathered before the battle of Buzenval.

Nearly a hundred sculptors, including Rodin and Bartholdi, presented their project. It is finally the statue of Louis-Ernest Barrias, La Défense de Paris, that was chose.

Guilhem Vellut, Flickr
Guilhem Vellut, Flickr

This statue, originally located in the center of a large roundabout in the perspective of the Arc de Triomphe, gave its name to the district of la Défense. Relocated several times, it is since January 2017 on the esplanade, halfway between the Grande Arche and the Seine.

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The origin of la Défense

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