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I'm Richard Clay,
I'm an art historian.
I don't just study the creation of art, I study its destruction.
In many ways, I study the history of art from below.
In this film, I'm going to tell the story of the French Revolution
through the destruction of art, buildings and symbols.
These are often used by those in power
as weapons to enforce the status quo.
In a revolution, the destruction and transformation of art and symbols
is a way to turn the tables. It's called iconoclasm.
The inside story
of great revolutions can be uncovered
through the smashed, altered and reshaped art of the past.
This is a story about art,
it's a story about symbols, it's a story about the power of the monarchy,
the power of the church, the power of aristocracy.
Were the French revolutionaries just a mob?
Why were their governments so afraid of them?
This is the history of art,
this is a story about the breaking of images,
this is a story of the city being transformed through destruction,
arguably the birth of the modern world.
The French Revolution of 1789 changed the world.
Inspired by the enlightenment notions of liberty, equality and brotherhood,
the people of France tore control of their destiny from the king, nobility and church,
giving birth to a new way of seeing the world around us.
The revolution was a war whose battlefield was the visual world,
where the symbols of royal, religious and aristocratic power
had long controlled people's lives.
Revolutionaries took these symbols and they destroyed them,
creating a new political order.
The word "vandalism" was invented to describe them.
But I don't think that they were mindless barbarians.
This battle over who controlled Paris began 24 kilometres outside
the city, here in Versailles.
Begun in 1632, King Louis's forebears expanded the Palace of Versailles
to boast an astonishing 750 rooms with extravagant gardens
covering 800 hectares.
This building was the ultimate expression of French, royal power.
Versailles is famous for being an extravagant piece of architecture
with beautiful art.
That's all true, but it's also the heart of ancien regime government.
The King's apartments are a tiny fraction of this vast palace.
The rest of it is administration, as well as servants, of course.
And that's the important thing for the revolution -
this is where government is done,
this is the place to come to get decisions made.
For all its gold leaf, I'm not here to visit the Palace of Versailles,
because the French Revolution effectively began nearby,
in this unassuming back street, at the Royal Tennis Courts.
I've genuinely studied the revolution for almost half my life.
I've never been in this space before.
It's amazing.
This is the truth.
This is probably, for me at least,
the most important place in recent French history.
In 1789, the French world of politics was in turmoil,
divided into three groups called estates - the church at the top, nobility in the middle,
and everybody else at the bottom.
The French people were hungry and angry
and taxed heavily by a cash-strapped elite.
France is effectively bankrupt,
they keep losing wars, it's an expensive business.
So the King says,
"I rule by divine right, I request that representatives of
"the three estates that make up French society
"come to Versailles and help me find a way
"of getting my accounts in order."
The third estate and its champions in the press
start to say,
"Well, we're the vast majority of the French people,
"surely we should have more representatives than everybody else?"
And when they tried to gather,
the King refused to let them meet in the allotted space
and they found the doors locked, so they came to the tennis court
and they swore an oath, they swore that they would sit in perpetuity
until a constitution was written for France.
This is the moment when constitutional politics is born.
David's painting of the tennis court,
it seems to be such a scene of consensus,
all these arms thrusting to the centre towards Bailly,
who's leading this oath.
But it isn't entirely a scene of consensus.
We've got a figure in the bottom right hand corner who sits gesturing,
firmly holding his arms to his chest, he is not going to raise
his arm and swear this oath, it's too big.
Robespierre stands clutching his chest.
He's realising the enormity of the moment.
He's not a renowned figure yet,
but, as we all know, he certainly will gain a reputation.
And in the very centre, just at the feet of Bailly,
there is Sieyes, who's such a key writer in the run-up to this event
and he sits as if in the eye of the storm, totally still,
as if contemplating what his writing has unleashed.
This is the birth of modern France.
The world has been turned upside down.
It's no longer about the divine right of kings,
it's about power, sovereignty, emanating from below.
It's the power of the people.
For the first time in their history,
the people had a representative government.
The King, his nobles and the church
were losing their control over the people's lives
and the world around them, a symbolic world that daily demonstrated
the power of King, church and aristocracy.
For aristocrats, art was primarily an intellectual experience.
Perhaps the first thing they'd observe on approaching this painting
would be, "Oh, look at this masterly final touch of the painter
"that brings the surface of the painting to life.
"Look at this astonishing fold in this fabric,
"described with a single brushstroke.
"Oh, the spontaneity of the artist and his genius."
This is an aesthetic object.
It's also an object that tells a moral story.
This is a young girl looking boldly at the viewer
with a bird on her finger,
but in the history of art, this elite would know,
the bird in a cage is virginity.
A bird that's escaped a cage is lost virginity.
This is a girl who's confident about her sexual virtue,
holds a bird on her finger.
There is an element of morality for the viewer to discuss,
but perhaps most importantly, for them it's a fabulous painting,
it has aesthetic value.
With their extensive education, the French aristocracy and middle classes
enjoyed nothing better than showing off their knowledge over a snapshot
of mythical life, the racier the better.
This is a historical painting, the subject Diana,
goddess of hunting, at her bath.
Othello, called Actaeon, a mythical Peeping Tom,
is watching her from the bushes.
And she sees him and she turns him into a stag,
and has him hunted down - it's a warning to the voyeur.
That kind of interpretation of this object was only really open to
those people who had a vast knowledge of antiquity and of mythology,
highly educated, a highly educated and a tiny elite,
particularly made up of an aristocracy who weren't allowed to work for a living,
who lived the kind of leisured life we see depicted here.
Who used their knowledge of the past to mark their social distinction,
and justify their role in society.
But in a way isn't this rather like the way that
we think about art today too?
That we go to the Louvre and we can demonstrate our knowledge of aesthetics,
and we queue to see the Mona Lisa
to be able to say we've seen something of historical value.
The fact that we today share this way of looking at art as a cerebral adventure,
suggests we've forgotten how powerful and controlling art
could be for the people of France in 1789.
For the majority of Parisians,
through religion, art had a power
to literally change their worlds.
Here, Santa Genevieve, on her knees, beseeches the Virgin Mary to ask God
to intercede and save people suffering because of drought.
Every religious image has this potential,
not just to save your soul
but also to help address the challenges of existence.
For most people, religious art was an immersive and very real experience
that helped them elevate their minds to God,
whose power could change the world.
This painting from the 18th century
shows this was a kind of 18th century sculptural installation.
These women aren't here to contemplate
the brilliance of this sculptural work,
they're not interested in aesthetics, nor in history.
These women are here in the hope that Christ and God will help them
in their day-to-day struggles.
Diderot, the great philosopher of the 18th century, said that he thought
that this chapel was theatrical, he thought it was dangerous,
that its immersive environment encouraged the poor particularly,
but people in general, to suspend their disbelief,
just as if they were at a theatre.
It's precisely this fear of the role that images can play
in people's lives that leads them to become such contested objects
during the revolution.
It was during the very first crisis of the French Revolution
that art was used as a weapon in the struggle
between those with power and those without.
With the assembly threatening the power of the King,
rumours had spread that Royalist troops were gathering outside Paris.
The people were furious.
Their target was a fortified gateway into Paris
where astronomic customs duties were raised on imports into the city.
Known as the Barriere de la Conference,
it no longer exists today.
To Parisians, it was a hated building loaded with economic
and political significance.
The 12th July 1879, the Parisians
were walking out of Paris and they were walking out of Paris
to the Barriere de la Conference on their route to Versailles.
They wanted to get to Versailles, they wanted to see the King.
But when they get there, they stop,
and what they do is they attack the Barriere de la Conference
which was just at this site.
But really interestingly, this mob of vandals,
this ignorant bunch of barbarians,
had turned up with stone masons and their tools.
This sounds like they might have had a plan.
Next to the barrier there were statues.
One of those statues, a female figure,
has a shield, on the shield are the fleurs-de-lis.
The fleurs-de-lis are the symbols of royal France.
This is, as far as the crowd are concerned, a symbol of royal France.
The stone masons are there because they have a plan,
and their plan is to decapitate the statue.
And that is precisely what they do.
Many historians of the revolution
cite this as the first example
of mindless mobs committing acts of wanton vandalism.
I disagree.
This moment of unrest, of violence,
although nobody's wounded, but violence is against property,
isn't meaningless, it's meaningful.
This statue at the gates of Paris in 1789
says to anybody who's entering Paris from Versailles
that Royalist France is like a body politic without a head.
This powerful symbol is not the product
of the behaviour of ignorant vandals.
'Doctor Guillaume Mazeau, at the Sorbonne,
'has been looking at what made the revolutionaries tick.
'Were they the violent mob of popular myth?'
These popular protests, these, in some cases, armed protests,
are these the protests of, of mobs?
No, er, a lot of these protestors want to avoid violence,
not because they are peaceful people but they knew that
the Royal Dragoons can stop these protests by violence.
So, we can't say that it is a mob because these protestors are not
influenced by their, only their emotion, their passions,
their irrational behaviours, but they have - what is quite new,
is that these protestors acts, erm, in a very modern way.
What makes these protests of July 1789 so strikingly modern?
Because they are influenced by other revolutions of the 18th century,
I mean by the American Revolution
but also about, by the European revolutions
and they perfectly knew what freedom means, what equality means.
So, it's not a mob it's a, it's a political protest.
Deep within the archives of the Bibliotheque nationale,
prints from the periods used symbolism of the headless royal statue
to show us the reality of the situation.
And this decapitated statue, it seems to me, is a key part of the composition.
The King no longer is just the simple head of state that he once was,
now something new has to emerge.
A member of the people standing where the head was.
They are now sovereign.
Even today, transforming symbols of power
through modification and destruction
is still a provocative form of protest.
Deep under the streets of Paris
are the remains of perhaps the greatest act of iconoclasm
of the whole French Revolution.
These stones are all that remains today of
the huge royal jail, the Bastille,
the ultimate symbol of royal despotism.
But the revolutionaries turned it from a symbol of cruelty
into an emblem of freedom.
In the days before the storming of the Bastille,
Parisians were, to say the least, agitated.
They'd been concerned that the city was surrounded by Royal troops
and it was. We get Parisians starting to arm themselves.
And the reason they stormed the Bastille is, Parisians are furious.
They want to take over the prison because they want the guns and the gunpowder that they
believe are in there, that's why they march on this symbol.
But it is also incredibly symbolically significant,
it is the symbol of despotism.
After a day-long siege, the Bastille's defenders were overwhelmed.
Soon the situation turned ugly.
The prison governor was decapitated by the angry crowd,
and his head stuck on a pike.
The people who'd stormed the Bastille begin to demolish it.
This incredibly powerful symbol of royal despotism is being
raised to the ground, brick by brick, by the people themselves.
This is the Place de la Bastille, the greatest, biggest, emptiest space
probably left by an act of iconoclasm in Paris.
For me, the siege of the Bastille
lead to one of the great symbolic transformations.
It lies here, in a storehouse 100 kilometres from Paris.
Straight after the fall of the Bastille in July 1789,
the Commune, a new revolutionary government of Paris,
were hearing that the people of Paris
had started to dismantle the Bastille.
The Commune decided they needed to take action,
they needed to show that the violence was over
that they were in control of space,
and that included all acts of violence against powerful symbols.
The official responsible for the dismantling of the Bastille,
Pierre-Francois Palloy, understood
the powerful messages communicated by symbols.
He produced dozens of models of the building
and sent them to all 83 Departements of France.
Now the Bastille no longer symbolised the despotic power of royalty.
As a result, this kind of plaster model ended up being circulated
around France by Palloy, in his entrepreneurial mode,
so that groups of French people could celebrate
this act of iconoclasm - others would call it vandalism, I wouldn't, -
and they could march together in revolutionary festivals,
perhaps on Bastille Day.
It's just such a beautifully detailed piece of work.
The windows, two of them, still there, barred.
It makes me wonder whether Palloy and his team are actually using metal from the Bastille.
Certainly much of the metal that was salvaged from the site
was being cast into souvenirs and sold.
Whether or not it's from the Bastille, every single set of windows
bears the signs of having had bars, as a really prominent reminder
of what a fortress prison this really was.
This isn't just an incredibly detailed model of the Bastille,
it's a message that's being sent to the Departements of France,
that the storming of the Bastille wasn't just
the efforts of the Parisians,
it was an effort made by the nation, on behalf of the whole nation.
The storming of the Bastille frightened
the new Parisian government.
They needed to take control of the situation and they needed money.
Their eyes turned to the wealth of the churches of Paris
in what was to be the first act of officially sponsored iconoclasm.
The clergy of San St Peters were incredibly well connected,
they knew the law was going to change and that silverware
would be demanded from them in October 1789.
So they gave a lot of it away in late September.
The church leaders beseeched the revolutionaries
to spare their massive silver statue of Mary.
This statue was particularly symbolic because it was made
from the old silver that had been given to the clergy by parishioners,
melted down to create this incredible sculpture by Bouchardon.
But as the revolution progressed it became clear that the statue
was going to have to be melted down, that a request made by a pamphleteer
in the name of the Virgin Mary that it should be used
for charitable purposes to help the nation
was going to have to be met.
And it wouldn't stop there.
As the revolution had progressed,
often beyond the control of the authorities,
so the calls for ever more radical iconoclasm would increase.
Paris is a city of revolution. They've had five in total
since the Bastille was stormed.
Like the revolution of 1789,
the anti-capitalist riots of 1968
engulfed most of the city.
Known as the soixante-huitard,
the young radicals who manned the barricades are still around.
Perhaps one of their number, Serge Aberdam, can give me an insight
into how a revolution acquires a life of its own.
The first time I was involved in a violent demonstration
was at that time when they saw them acting like, like a mob.
They were using those wooden clubs
and, er, hitting people actually on the middle of the street.
There were many people there,
and they were hitting as heavily as they could.
I was astonished, I was on the side and I was not involved at the time.
A few hours later I was. Really?
Till the people were beginning to act as a group,
asking the liberty of their streets and movement.
Did you have a sense of the fact that you were
part of a French tradition, a legacy?
Oh, yes, we did.
Those days in May when we build barricades in the upper, in the Latin District there,
and people thought they were in a tradition and raising those barricades.
'Serge really set me thinking about what it was like
'on the 12th July or the 14th July'
and I started to get a sense of how, what starts as a small group
of protesters can rapidly expand
into an entire society in rebellion.
It's an astonishing frontline insight.
Like the uprising of 1968,
revolutionary fervour spread throughout the city in 1789.
The old world of church and aristocracy was now officially under
attack and the marks of this destruction of the old world
are still embedded in the walls of the city today.
There's nothing more familiar in cities than their walls,
but it's odd how quickly the familiar can become strange.
Latin graffiti on the wall of a 17th century church.
"Omnia Communia" - everything belongs to all.
Then iron bars sticking out of the wall, rusted.
What was hung from these bars? They look like legs.
And then a horizontal piece of concrete above. This was a crucifix.
This was pulled down during de-Christianisation
in the French Revolution, 1793 or 4.
And then empty walls.
A period of peace, perhaps, in Paris.
And a door with a triangle on top with no religious sign.
Liberty, equality, fraternity.
Across Paris, teams of sculptors began removing the symbols
of the hated oppressors of the Ancien Regime.
A damaged work of art or even an empty space above a doorway
speaks volumes about the power struggle at the heart of the revolution.
A door with roundels chipped out.
What was here?
Fleurs-de-lis, all the way up the door,
both sides of the door, and two roundels with nothing in them.
What was there? Royal signs, religious signs, signs of feudalism?
Two harmless, armless cherubs holding nothing.
Why? Why were their arms chipped off?
This single wall of a single church in Paris,
tells the story of a succession of revolutionary conflicts.
This wall also tells a story of contemporary struggle.
Omnia Communia? Everything belongs to all.
The walls speak, we just have to listen and look.
The aristocrats and their coats of arms that used to plaster Paris
were also in the firing line.
So, in August 1789, the National Assembly had just abolished
feudalism, very sudden, very total.
All of the signs of feudalism that were all over Paris
suddenly looked rather out of place
and it wasn't particularly good to be an aristocrat with your emblems
on the outside of your townhouse.
Hence, at a place like this,
now the Bibliotheque Historique de la Ville de Paris,
it used to the house of the Lamoignon family, and here we've
got a black inlay that's been placed on later,
because what would have happened is the Lamoignon family plastered over
their coat of arms because they were no longer aristocrats.
Possibly hoping that one day
this abolition of the aristocracy would be revoked.
As the revolution progressed, the temporary solution of just plastering
over the coats of arms of aristocrats
was no longer really working.
They'd been doing that work but now they were starting to emigrate.
The revolutionary authorities needed a more permanent solution, and this
solution was simply to chip out the coats of arms above the town houses' doorways, like this example.
Incredibly elaborate aristocratic frontispiece,
but with a great big empty space in the middle of it.
All record of the existence of these families over the generations in
Paris was being completely erased.
Only months into the revolution
and the streets and buildings of Paris had changed significantly.
But in the summer of 1789, bread was still too expensive
and people were hungry. Dissent spread on the streets of Paris.
In October 1789, Paris was hungry.
Paris was also angry. This combination of hunger and anger
leads to a kind of protest movement that grows, and in due course,
5th October, several thousand Parisians end up
marching out to Versailles
and they camp here, and the next day, when they head back to
Paris, they head back with the Royal family,
the centre of government has moved from Versailles back to Paris.
With the royals safely in the heart of Paris,
the people could keep their eyes on the King.
Now in Paris, King Louis kept his head down,
endorsing revolutionary redistribution of church wealth.
But Louis was no fool - he knew his family was in danger.
They made a fateful decision to try and escape to Marie Antoinette's homeland, Austria,
in the summer of 1791, but they were captured at the Austrian border.
The family was brought back to Paris in very real danger.
This is a moment on the 26th July 1791, when the royal family
are brought back to Paris having tried to escape to Varennes,
and the people of Paris line the streets as they always would for a royal entry into the city,
But this time they don't cheer, this time they stand in silence
and in many places they actually stand
with their backs to the royal family's carriage.
This print maker's chosen an amazing moment,
which is the moment when Louise XVI comes past the statue
to Louis XV on to the way into the Tuilerie Palace.
And there are young boys who have clambered up on to the statue of Louis XV,
this much detested king,
and they're blindfolding the statue,
as if to say, even Louis XV
wouldn't want to see this awful scene of a cowardly king
who's abandoned his people and abandoned the revolution.
This was a kind of iconoclasm.
The revolutionaries used a statue of Louis XV
as a weapon of protest against the traitorous King.
To find out what they were really trying to achieve,
who better to speak to than a modern day so-called vandal.
What's the link between us and the revolution, what are we doing here?
Well, you reckon you're vandals, you call yourselves vandals, he's wearing a T-shirt that says vandal on it.
And I write about vandalism during the French Revolution,
but I'm saying these people weren't vandals, this wasn't vandalism,
they're not blind, ignorant barbarians,
they're incredibly smart people
and they understand that monuments in public space
are being used to try and control them.
So they pour shit on their heads or write graffiti on it.
OK. So, why they hell are you a graffiti artist?
This whole project was the idea of demonstrating
that we're not vandals, we're truly artists.
I like it.
In 2010, Parisian graffiti artist So What
lead a 40-strong team that covered the walls of a huge abandoned supermarket with art.
What was the driving force behind this incredible
installation of graffiti?
When I was 16 year old
I was angry at the world,
I wanted to burn and graffiti was a way for me
to get that to the world, you know.
I had all the reasons in the world to do it.
We think we're right to do it, and in a lot of places we are right to do it.
What fascinated us is that this place has been heavily squatted,
gypsy families, and our government spend a month-and-a-half
leading a war on gypsies, dismantling gypsy camps
because they cannot do anything about the economy so they were giving a hard times to the most
fragile population in this country.
It's really sophisticated art, it's really thought provoking,
I'm just wondering whether you got a response
where anyone's calling it vandalism still?
I'll tell you this, the whole idea was to make a statement
that they call us vandals but that's not what we are, you know,
we are artists,
I mean, I'm clear about that, at this age,
I might not have been clear about it at 20 years old but now I am.
But this is what the project is.
For me, the beauty of this graffiti
is that So What and friends were using a controversial building
as a vehicle for protest.
Not what I would call vandalism.
This is incredibly relevant to what else we've been looking at.
We've been looking at how in the 18th century people would transform,
physically transform a sculpture,
but they'd also talk about it in a different way,
so you can take a symbol and transform it, my dear vandal.
Exactly, exactly. Are you for a vandal?
I'm delighted to have met a pair of vandals.
All right. Pleased to meet you. Who I now think are ignorant barbarians(!)
So What - what an astonishing name, So What.
what I love about So What is that this incredibly avant garde graff artist
sees this historical tradition and this historical tradition
is like, I don't know,
kind of part of the DNA of the culture of Paris,
this culture of resistance, this culture of contestation,
that just because you can afford to build the massive monument,
like the Eiffel Tower,
that doesn't mean that you are actually in control.
Anyone who can hold a pen, a spray can, they have power, too.
The Parisian ability to take a symbol like the statue of Louis XV,
and turn it into a witty and cutting attack on the traitorous King
is alive and well in the guise of So What.
In the summer of 1792, at a public appearance,
revolutionaries forced the shamed Louis XVI
to wear a red revolutionary bonnet.
Now it wasn't just royal statues that were being
transformed and used for mockery, it was the King's own body.
A man who'd once claimed to rule by divine right
is now dangerously close to becoming an all too human target.
On the 11th July 1792,
the National Assembly declared the country to be in danger
from Austrian invasion.
Led by the radicals of the Commune,
the people went after the King in the Tuilerie Palace.
On the 10th August 1792, Parisians accompanied by National Guards
from all of the sections of Paris, and by Marseilles troops
who had marched all the way from Marseilles to protect Paris from
Austrian invasion,
stormed up the Tuilerie Palace gardens.
Halfway down they faltered and Theroigne de Mericout, a woman,
stood up and led the charge. The men, shamed by this leadership, followed
her into a hail of musket fire from Swiss Guard.
Despite the presence of close to 1,000 Swiss mercenaries
the crowd won the day.
By the end of that day, Swiss Guards bodies littered the palace gardens
and the entirety of the palace.
Almost to a man they were massacred.
The people, once they got into the Louvre found the royal family cowering in the meeting
room of the National Assembly.
A debate opened up and the Assembly managed to calm down the invaders
to a point where they were dispersing.
But the next day it became clear that the conclusion of the National Assembly
was they would simply suspend the monarchy.
To the people of Paris this was not going to be good enough.
What would happen the next day was the statues of kings would begin to topple.
Before the revolution,
royal power was asserted through statues of kings.
It was backed up by the threat of violence.
For these statues of kings,
these are very specific representations of the monarch.
He's enormous, he's herculean,
he's in armour, he carries a martial baton,
tiny little fleurs-de-lis all the way along it, he's a military leader.
Behind the power of the king is the power to exert violence on his people
if necessary.
This is really about the power of the monarchy.
Even today, you can find examples of the struggle to control the images
around us.
On a column in the centre of the city
you can find a symbol of Napoleonic power, an eagle.
Just below, the modern day artist Invader
has added one of his creations.
The weird thing is this witty, clever, quite sympathetic intervention in a public space
is illegal, but that monstrosity, totally out of keeping with the city,
Paris sponsored by Volkswagen, isn't illegal.
So who does own the right to make meaning in public space with symbols?
The space invader artist or global corporations?
And on the 11th August, 1789, it wasn't images of corporate power
that got attacked,
but the detested royal statue of the King's grandfather, Louis XV.
To actually topple a statue is no mean feat.
Anybody who's seen the footage of the statue of Saddam Hussein
being brought down by American Marines during the Gulf War
will understand the scale of the task.
There it took an armoured car several attempts to get the statue to the ground.
So the Parisians are engaging in a complex engineering task.
When they finally get the statue on to the floor they then begin to break it up, and actually
that's an important gesture,
because when the National Assembly give the official go ahead
for this kind of unlicensed iconoclasm
a couple of days later, they say the debris should be taken to the forge,
melted down to create cannons to fire on the armies of kings.
This is a material transformation of the statue.
The statue itself is going to become
a series of powerful, military symbols - cannons.
Even the much-loved Henry IV was under threat of destruction.
Come mid-August 1792, the statues of kings were toppling across the city,
but the statue of Henry IV still sitting in the centre of the Pont Neuf.
Parisians are trying to decide what they're to do with this much-loved
statue of this much-loved king.
Were they to pull down even the good King Henry,
who they'd constructed as being a sympathiser of
the revolution?
In the end, they decided they would, the debris toppled.
Mercier said, "It turns out it wasn't solid bronze after all.
"They couldn't melt it down to form cannons, the statue is as hollow as the power of kings."
Of course, you might be wondering why this statue
is still here.
This is an inferior copy, it's put up later by royalists after a kind of counter revolution.
How very Parisian.
The radical government of Paris, the Commune,
becomes increasingly influential.
The monarchy was abolished.
From now on, members of the National Assembly,
like Robespierre, were struggling to limit the Commune's power.
All royal symbols were at risk,
even those on the front of Paris's cathedral,
Notre Dame.
The facade of Notre Dame has been restored since,
but in 1793 the statues of kings were annoying radicals
and the government of Paris.
Early September 1793,
the controversy over the statues of kings at Notre Dame
was reaching a boiling point.
On 5th September the national convention had declared terror to be the order of the day,
these were the original terrorists, self-proclaimed.
Meanwhile, at Notre Dame, the radical sectionaires are saying why have we got these colossal statues of kings,
still sitting on front of Notre Dame?
Dougone, Francoise Dougone, a stonemason, and his team,
come down to Notre Dame by order of the authorities
and erect an enormous scaffold
and they work their way along these statues of kings.
His team got to work surgically chipping off the crowns and royal symbolism
like fleurs-de-lis from the statues.
But this wasn't enough, they had to come down.
The noose is pulled round the neck of the statue
and the statue is pulled down, and it crashes onto the pavement.
And this is the major concern in the aftermath of each of
these falling from that height for the revolutionary authorities -
we've broken the pavement.
The debris is piled up beside Notre Dame,
where a contemporary diarist noticed it was being used as a toilet and it stank to high heaven.
He says, "The sight of these objects, the smell of these objects
"is disgusting, but it's not as awful as the smell of the past
"that they represent."
In a way, I think,
he's playing with carnivalesque notions
of the role of shit in culture.
The funny thing about shit is, whether you're a soldier,
a member of the people or you're a king, you all shit.
But not all revolutionaries thought the statues were worthless.
The heads were rescued and unofficially preserved for the future.
The marks on them hold clues to what the revolutionaries were trying to achieve.
In 1793, things hadn't been looking too good
for the statues of kings,
but the amazing thing is that in 1977,
when building work starts on a bank, in the basement,
discovered, wrapped in plaster are these remains
of the heads of the statues of kings.
This was a deliberate act of preservation.
After all, these had been condemned as being grotesque gothics,
which is to say, in very bad taste.
What we see are some of the traces of the act of breaking.
So all of these heads are missing their noses.
Now, this seems too incredible a coincidence, did they all fall flat on their faces from the gallery
when they hit the path at the outside of Notre Dame?
I don't think so.
Clues as to what was going on can be found in recent history, too.
The cutting out of the faces on the images of despots by revolutionaries,
like this defacing of the posters of Gaddafi - powerful political acts.
Were they actively defaced afterwards,
perhaps as they're lying beside Notre Dame being used as a public toilet?
That actually seems plausible to me
but is this an act of vandalism? I'm not so sure.
1793 saw more than the destruction of statues.
Radicals like Robespierre within the National Assembly
introduced a policy of terror,
the arrest and execution of those unfaithful to the revolution.
Here we are, back on the Place de la Concorde, the kind of beating heart
of the terror in Paris.
The beating heart as in the place where all the beating hearts were stopped.
The real beating heart's probably the revolutionary tribunals
which are sending people to the guillotine, sometimes with just 24 hours notice.
But a guillotine was mounted here.
The irony of having just across the river nowadays the Assemblee Nationale
is pretty significant.
But this square saw an awful lot of bloodshed.
The famous Mr Guillotine.
"A machine proposed to the Assembly Nationale,
"for the punishment of criminals by Monsieur Guillotine."
I think we all know how it works.
It's quick, it's humane, it's enlightened,
and it used to sit in the Place Louis XV.
Finally, in early 1793,
after being found guilty of treason against France,
the King was executed.
The statue of Louis XV had been toppled and it's directly
opposite the empty pedestal that Louis XVI is executed
on the 21st January 1793, and his head held up.
With the destruction of the royals, the radicals within the government
moved on to the other great power, the church.
This attack on the church, known as de-Christianisation,
would engulf the most cherished religious spaces of Paris.
This comprehensive attack on Christian France began here at
the great cathedral of Notre Dame.
On 10th November 1793, radicals, from the Commune,
decide to challenge the authority of God.
In the autumn of 1793, a visitor to Notre Dame could have come in
and happened upon the first ever festival of reason,
and in coming to the crossing of the knave they might have seen
a mountain, and on it an actress, an actress in a church,
who when she died wouldn't even be worthy of being buried in church grounds because she was regarded
as being tantamount to a prostitute.
And this actress was playing the role of the deity of reason,
in a ceremony that was a festival of reason.
This is an extraordinary moment in the history of this church,
its first day in a new life,
not as a church but as a temple of reason.
Notre Dame wasn't alone. Across Paris the great churches
ceased to be Christian and they became temples of reason.
Central to their new status was a state-sponsored campaign,
the wholesale removal, alteration or destruction of religious symbols.
On 5th September, 1793,
the section finally got to hold its first festival of reason.
Probably all of these chapels to the side were sealed off
with drapery so you couldn't see the imagery and it's in the pulpit that
a local sectionaire stands and says to his audience,
"So, if this god exists,
"why doesn't he strike me down right now with a bolt of thunder?"
And then he gazed pregnantly at the ceiling, for a moment,
and says, "There you go, no thunder, he doesn't exist."
At the end of this ceremony, the whole of the section take two
of the wooden statues and they process them to a local square,
where they burn them.
With God banished, next to go were the symbols and art.
The sculptor who brought down the kings at Notre Dame, Dougone,
worked on the 240-foot high towers of Saint-Sulpice.
What was so important that it meant risking life and limb?
Francois Dougone's time at Saint-Sulpice, eight weeks,
involved making hundreds of changes to the symbolism of the church,
but this work right outside is the first thing that
revolutionaries visiting the space would have seen.
Right over the main door, begins with this bas relief of Faith.
Here Faith used to hold a chalice,
but instead now she holds a flaming torch
that symbolises the enlightenment
that the visitor is going to receive inside.
The little cherub beside her once held a cross.
Now the cherub holds instead, fasces,
fasces, that symbol of Roman unity,
also Roman law and order,
that eventually becomes the symbol that gives the name to fascists.
In this bas relief, the cherub to the left, this time the cross
has been turned into a sword, a kind of military symbol, surely.
So the real work of Dougone began once he got inside the church.
All of these trophies that line the knave high up,
that are now blank, re-sculptured by Dougone,
working at this vast height on scaffolding
that his team had brought to the church and assembled there.
But working on the high ceiling was just the beginning.
Dougone and his team had to go even higher.
This graffiti here,
we're on the way to the chapel of the students
and its Saint Sulpician priests.
Oh great, it's getting narrower(!)
1967, somebody last came up here.
We're running out of graffiti.
This is it, people lose the will to write as they get to this altitude,
perhaps I'm not the only person who's afraid of heights!
Above the knave, the interior of the church is covered in graffiti.
I just can't resist looking for a hastily scrawled "Dougone was here".
Who are these men who took the time to carve their names
into this wall, at this height?
Is that a revolutionary?
1830 - the year of the revolution.
Dougone didn't leave his signature behind, it seems.
At a height of about 200 feet, I reach the bells -
even these didn't escape the revolution.
Wow, the bells - they're all new. During the revolution
they were all pulled down, all but one of them,
to turn them into thousands and thousands of coins, each bearing
the symbol of the republic, for distribution around the country.
That's transformation of symbols.
At 240 feet in the air, I can get a sense of the lengths
Dougone and his team were going to in their roles
as revolutionary iconoclasts.
So Dougone, in his report for the work he did at Saint Sulpice,
said, "I was working at a really prodigious height,
"and the weather was appalling."
And this is kind of why he charged so much, now I'm up here
I kind of understand what he means, and his team must have been
hanging off here with ropes to chip out the church's signs
that are just beneath where I'm standing on this tower.
They must have been working in a similar way on the floor down,
where the bells are, going outside of the safety of the walls
to alter the statues.
Yeah, they were charging a lot of money,
but even taking account for inflation as they were,
I kind of think they probably deserved the danger money.
Dougone might have been an entrepreneur,
but he was clearly a committed revolutionary.
Between 1793 and 1794, like other teams of masons,
he transformed the churches across Paris.
But the deeply engrained Catholicism of the French people
was hard to wipe out.
Robespierre, one of the architects of the terror, realised that the
revolutionary assembly had allowed the Cult of Reason to go too far.
In 1794, after executing those responsible,
he launched a new cult, with a new God.
On the 8th June 1794, Parisians were invited to
an enormous festival for a new cult, it was the Cult of the Supreme Being.
And this festival is to celebrate it - they get to see
this incredible spectacle, this enormous mountain
built on the Champs du Mars, and then a massive column,
which is probably made of paper mache
and on top of it, an enormous figure of Hercules,
symbolising the power of the people.
Yet within just six weeks, this cult was in its last throes.
Within six weeks, Robespierre himself had been arrested,
by the very members of the convention who had processed with him
up the Montagne.
Members who were increasingly worried that it was chop, chop, chop
for them as government guillotined them.
They turned on Robespierre, arrested him, and on the 28th July 1794,
Robespierre, realising he was cornered,
tried to shoot himself - simply blowing off his jaw.
24 hours later he was dead,
and the Cult of the Supreme Being was dead with him.
After Robespierre's death,
the revolutionary Cult of the Supreme Being fell away -
the people were eager for an end to such radicalism.
As the assembly fought for control in the aftermath of Robespierre's death,
an upwardly mobile young general took control of power for himself.
His name was Napoleon,
but his coup didn't lead to democracy and equality for all.
By 1815, Napoleon himself had fallen from power.
And the royals had returned, rebuilding the statue
of good old Henry IV on the Pont Neuf, built from the recycled bronze
of a statue of one of Napoleon's favourite generals.
It just goes to show, the battle over who controls these symbols of power
on the streets of Paris has never really ended.
Just like Parisians of the French revolution,
from the moment that we step outside of our doors,
we're in a world of images and symbols that demand our attention
and even our loyalty, but we have to realise that these symbols
shape our world and the way that we understand it and imagine it.
The French Revolution shows us
that those who control our symbolic world
can never take their power for granted -
there's always somebody who's willing to scrawl on a symbol,
to pull it down, to smash it up,
to smear it with shit, to set it on fire
or to make subtle and creative changes to it,
that create a new symbol.
As Picasso taught us,
the act of creation is always first and foremost an act of destruction.


BBC The French Revolution - Tearing Up History

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不信中原不姓朱 2016 年 8 月 12 日 に公開
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