The column you will find today in the center of the square was erected by Napoleon as the Colonne d'Austerlitz. The 44 meter tall column (144 ft) is modeled after Rome's Trajan Column. It was built to commemorate the victory at Austerlitz in 1805, one of Napoleon's greatest. The column's continuous ribbon of bas-relief bronze plates by the sculptor Pierre-Nolasque Bergeret were made from 1200 cannons taken from the combined armies of Russia and Austria during that battle. The reliefs depict scenes during the Napoleonic Wars between 1805 and 1807.
The column was first known as the Colonne d'Austerlitz and it later was given the names of Colonne de la Victoire (Victory Column) and Colonne de la Grande Armée (Column of the Great Army). Today it is commonly known as the Colonne Vendôme.
A statue of Napoleon was installed at the top of the column in 1810. Later, the statue of the emperor was removed and the bronze melted down to provide the bronze for the recast of the equestrian statue of Henri IV on the Pont Neuf. A new statue was installed in 1833 which was later replaced by the statue that is seen today. It was erected by Napoleon III and depicts Napoleon I as a Roman emperor.