Arc De Triomphe has been one of the most famous monuments and landmark of tourist attraction in Paris that stands right at the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle also called as the “Place de l’Étoile“. Situated on the western side of the famous Champs-Élysées, the arc is a part of L’Axe historique, a series of grand monuments and gracious boulevards extending from Louvre Palace to the exterior of the city.
Arc de Triomphe was ordered to be constructed by the then emperor of France, Napoleon in 1806 as a tribute to his Grand Armée brave hearts who lost their lives in the Napoleonic war. Napoleon was inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus and wanted to build his 19th century version of the monument. The monument was built between 1806 and 1836. In 1810, Napoleon had entered Paris from under a huge wooden model of the anticipated future arc with his new wife Marie-Louise.
The construction of the arc was stopped after Napoleon’s defeat in 1814, but resumed during the reign of King Louis-Philippe from 1826. Napoleon did not see the complete structure that was inaugurated in 1836. However, his body was brought from Saint Helena to Paris from under the arc in 1840 for the final rites to his resting place in Les Invalides. The arc has seen both victory marches as well as defeats. After the end of the World War I, Charles Godefroy flew his fighter plane through the Arc de Triomphe as a tribute to the soldiers killed in the war. It saw marches of Germans in 1871 (Franco-Prussian War) and Nazis (World War II). The arc also witnessed two unsuccessful assassinations against Charles De Gaulle and Jacques Chirac, who survived.
Design and Construction:
Renowned French architect, Jean Chalgrin owns the credit of designing Arc de Triomphe in 1806. Jean-Nicolas Huyot completed Chalgrin’s work on the arc after his death in 1811.
The monument is 50 meters aka 164 feet tall, 22 meters aka 72 feet deep and 45 meters aka 148 feet) wide. It has two vaults large and small. While the former is 29.19 meters (95.8 feet) in height and 14.62 meters (48.0 feet) in width, the small vault’s height is 18.68 meters (61.3 feet) while width is 8.44 meters (27.7 feet).
The design and style of the Arc De Triomphe is inspired from the 19th Century structures and its ceiling is decorated with sculpted roses. While there are four sculptures on each of the four pillars of the Arc De Triomphe, the facades of the Arch has six reliefs sculpted on it, representing key moments of both the napoleon era and the French Revolution.
There is a tomb of the Unknown Soldier below the vault. There is an observation deck at a height of 50 metres aka 164 feet from the Arc from where one can see some of the best views of Paris. There is a staircase of 284 steps from the ground level to escalate to the top of the arc.
The arc costed around 9.3 million French francs, a big amount during that time.
Going by the idea behind its construction, the inner as well as the outer surfaces of Arc De Triomphe has engravings of soldiers who died during both the Napoleonic wars and the French revolution. In addition, the attic comprises of engravings of 30 shields, engraved with names of major revolutionary and Napoleonic military victories.
Tomb of Unknown Soldier
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, representing 1,500,000 soldiers who died during the World War I was added in 1921 and is situated below the vault. The eternal flame of remembrance, which was lit by Andre Maginot on 11 November 1923, had not been extinguished since then. The flame is rekindled every evening at 6:30 pm.
Four Sculptures on Pillars of the Arc
Each of the four sculptures on each of the pillars of the Arc De Triomphe, is a celebration of an important occasion in the history of France.
Le Départ de 1792 (La Marseillaise), by François Rude - The cause of the French First Republic at the time of 10 August uprising.
Le Triomphe de 1810, by Jean-Pierre Cortot - The Treaty of Schönbrunn with goddess victory crowning Napoleon.
La Résistance de 1814, by Antoine Étex - Celebration of French resistance during the War of the Sixth Coalition.
La Paix de 1815, by Antoine Étex - The Treaty of Paris
Arc De Triomphe is the second largest Triumphal arc today and witnesses more than 1.7 million visitors every year.