Colonne de la Grande Armée

Avenue de la Colonne

62126 Wimille

Tel: 00 33 (0)3 21 80 43 69

Museum open:

15 June to 30 September, Wednesday to Sunday 10.30am to 12.30pm and 2.30pm to 6.30pm. 1 October to 7 November and 18 December to 14 June Friday to Sunday 10am to 12 noon and 2pm to 4pm.

Museum Closed:

Mondays and 25 December, 1st January, 1st May and 1st November.

Located around three kilometres out of town on the N1, in the small town of Wimille, is the Colonne de la Grande Armée. This elegant column, topped with a statue of Napoleon in military dress, was built after the ceremony at which Napoleon bestowed the Legion d’honneur for the second time, on the site of the Boulogne camp.

Construction began in October 1804 by architect Eloi Labarre and by 1814 it had reached 20 metres. Worked stopped when Napoleon fell and restarted in 1819 and the first statue placed in 1823. It was finally declared complete in 1905.

The column rises to an impressive 53 metre high making this the highest column in France. Surrounded by railings that are decorated with the golden French Imperial eagle, this immense monument, marks the base camp known as camp du Boulogne, where Napoleon amassed France’s biggest ever army of eighty thousand men who were poised here to invade England between 1803 and 1805.

The column, of the Doric order, is made from local Marquis marble and is topped by a statue of Napoleon – made by Stenne in 1962 – depicted in the uniform of a ‘petit corporal’. The base has panels that show a relief of Napoleon presenting medals of the Legion d’Honneur to heros. It also houses an archive room in where there are copies of the busts of Napoleon.

The monument was struck by lightening in 2002, causing some of the stone at the top to explode, and so a restoration project is still in progress, making it presently impossible to climb the 263 steps of the Column to its peak. In the meantime though, there is a free museum in a pavilion to the right of its base that houses the original statue and offers lots of information about the column and the background history. It also houses the statue that stood at the column’s peak before being usurped by Napoleon.