Urban monument and equestrian benchmarks

In 1835, Adolphe Franconi opened a second Parisian establishment "to give performances of equestrian exercises during the summer" at Carré Marigny on the Champs-Élysées. Originally built with boards and canvas, the Cirque des Champs-Élysées was reserved solely for equestrian exercises and gymnastics – there was no stage. The establishment had nearly 2,000 seats before being replaced by a permanent building with 5,000 seats built by the architect Hittorff in 1841. This was a veritable circular urban monument which became the architectural model for all permanent (non-travelling) circuses built later in all the major cities of France. The performances were brilliant and became the admiration and the talk of all Paris.

The cavalier is as calm as the animal he rides. He is in the saddle, and with all your attention, you cannot tell how, — the one bearing the other, — they can execute all these feats of strength, which yet are not feats of strength! In fact, you neither see the hands nor the legs of the cavalier move; you would say, that the horse acts of himself, and because it is his good pleasure [...] The vulgar are tempted to exclaim: It is a miracle!

Jules Janin, A summer in Paris, 1843

As in Astley’s establishments, Franconi’s offered riding lessons in the morning and their reputation and teaching quality attracted prestigious students. Eugène de Beauharnais and Louis-Philippe’s son took classes on high-school riding and vaulting at Cirque Franconi. Laurent was considered to be the first person to present "school horses in a circus". In addition, Jules Pellier and François Baucher opened a circus in Le Pecq (1838) before Baucher publicly presented his method at the Cirque des Champs-Élysées, where he was regularly on the bill and trained several riders, including the famous Caroline Loyo and Pauline Cuzent. Victor Franconi (1811-1897), the son of Laurent, was the first of the dynasty to write two riding treaties, Le Cavalier [The Cavalier] (1855) and L'Ecuyer [The Riding Master] (1860). More notable students he trained included James Fillis and he was responsible for training the Emperor’s [Napoleon III] horses, in addition to his showman activities.

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