Named after the Roman god of war, the Champ de Mars is first meant to be a military field and manoeuvres took place there until the end of the 19th century. Yet it is also possible today to find peace in this place.
On the Western part of the Champ de Mars, the allée Léon Bourgeois pays tribute to this French politician who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1920. He was a Freemason, a member of the Radical-Socialist Party, several times a Member of Parliament, Minister and President of the Council, and published a book entitled For a League of Nations in 1910. Considering that the Peace Conferences that had taken place in the Hague in 1899 and 1907 had not been successful, he analysed conditions for peace in his essay. In his opinion, only the reinforcement of international law and the creation of a League of Nations could allow a genuine peace to develop. In 1919 he became the first President of the League of Nations created by the Treaty of Versailles and received the Nobel Peace Prize for this mandate the following year.
Another story from another time: on October 25th, 1972, in the morning, Parisians found out that about sixty ewes were grazing on the Champ de Mars, near the Eiffel Tower. Peasants from Larzac, a plateau in Aveyron, came to Paris with them in order to protest against the expansion of a military camp. They wanted to raise awareness all over France about their non-violent fight to keep their land, threatened by the Ministry of Defence. These peasants, the famous producers of roquefort cheese, chose non-violent action, influenced by Lanza del Vasto: he went to India in 1936 to meet Gandhi and founded the Ark Community upon his return. On October 25th in the evening, France was able to watch policemen running after ewes on television! The Larzac movement then became a national movement and François Mitterrand, who was elected President in May 1981, kept his promise and cancelled the camp enlargement. Today, another similar movement is opposing a project aiming to build a new airport in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, near Nantes.
The Champ de Mars is also home to the Monument for Human Rights, built in 1989 for the Bicentenary of the French Revolution. It pays tribute to the first Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which had been adopted on August 26th, 1789 in Versailles. It is the work of Czech sculptor Ivan Theimer, who emigrated to France in 1968.