I’ve been writing about the many other Statues of Liberty found throughout France. Another copy is in the south of France at Saint Cyr-sur-mer. It’s one of the reduced-size models originally cast by Bartholdi. A rich local man, Anatole Ducros, gave it to the town to mark the inauguration of the town’s first water supply in 1913. Unlike other reproductions, however, it is completely covered in a fine layer of gold.
The small town of Barentin, near Rouen, at the other end of the country has another replica. It was needed for the film Le Cerveau (The Brain), featuring the perennially popular Jean-Paul Belmondo. This one was not made by Bartholdi, but by the father of the actor who produced the prop for the film. The 44 foot plastic lady weighs almost 8,000 pounds. She was supposed to be destroyed after the film but Belmondo, the director, and the mayor of Barentin intervened and she currently graces a traffic circle. As if that weren’t sufficiently awful, it has a huge Golden Arches sign behind it.
Soulac-sur-Mer placed its replica right by the beach, facing out to sea. It’s cast from an original mold, but has only been in place since 1980. Residents wanted to mark that is was from this area (albeit a few miles away) that La Fayette left France aboard “La Victoire” to come to the aid of George Washington.
Other links to the New World are remembered with the replica at Gourin. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the little community in Brittany lost 3,000 residents to the promise of a new life in America. The connection was a Michelin factory south of New York that directly recruited people from Brittany. A second wave of emigration for the ten years after WWII took almost 750 more locals. Just as the Statue of Liberty marks the arrival of immigrants to the harbor in New York, so her replica marks the place that they left behind.
Ploeren, near Vannes in Brittany, has one of the most curious of the statues for the most curious of reasons. When the head of the “Seagull” char à voile company was at a trade show, he saw that one of his American competitors had a large Lady Liberty as their mascot at their stand. (A char à voile is one of those zippy little devices that looks like a windsurfing board, but for coasting along the sand, rather than the waves.) He reasoned that a seagull was also a symbol of liberty and persuaded the competition to sell him their statue for about $5,000 and got it to Ploeren in a boat. He plonked it by the busy highway where it has become a local landmark. Since 1990, the 23½ foot statue has lit up the night sky with her neon blue torch. After the attacks on September 11, people left bouquets of flowers at her feet as a sign of solidarity with the United States. And when people want to protest this or that action done by the US, they’ll wave their banners in her shadow.
French existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said La liberté est choix (lah leeb-air-tay eh shwah), which means “Liberty is choice.” He wasn’t referring to the choice of which Statues of Liberty to visit on your next French road trip…but he could have been. I’ve got three more Ladies to tell you about on another day.
- Statue of Liberty: 50 fascinating facts (telegraph.co.uk)
- Statue of Liberty once again open for tourists (usatoday.com)
- Rare photos of the Statue of Liberty under construction in 1883 (askmarion.wordpress.com)
- La responsabilité est le prix de la liberté (onequalitythefinest.com)
- La Liberté Éclairant le Monde (onequalitythefinest.com)