Finally, here we are… The Arc de Triomphe!!
Arc de Triomphe
The Arch of Triumph
In the middle of the Place Charles de Gaulle, at the border of the 8th, 16th and 17th arrondissement
stands one of the greatest arches in history: the Arc de Triomphe.
For two centuries, the Arc de Triomphe
has proudly stood at the centre of the Place de l’Étoile in Paris
. Offering panoramic views and 19th century sculptures, it is one of the most visited monuments in the French capital
Napoleon’s Triumphal Arch
50 metres high, 45 metres long; the grand silhouette of the Arc de Triomphe is located at the west end of the renowned Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
The arch was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate his victories, but he was ousted before the arch was completed.
Requested by Napoleon I in 1806 to celebrate the glory of war heroes, it wasn’t completed until 1836 during the reign of Louis-Philippe.
Louis Philippe thus it unveiled 20 years later by the King of France, Louis Philippe, who then dedicated it to the armies of the Revolution and the Empire.
Between these two dates, the construction of the monument experienced many revivals, which can be explored by visiting the Arc de Triomphe museum.
Located inside the building, it offers multimedia activities, which enable visitors to explore the history of the monument and closely admire the most inaccessible sculptures.
The Arc de Triomphe is engraved with names of generals who commanded French
troops during Napoleon’s regime.
The design of the arch by Jean Chalgrin is based on the Arch of Titus in Rome
. The Arc de Triomphe is much higher (50m versus 15m), but it has exactly the same proportions.
The triumphal arch is adorned with many reliefs, most of them commemorating the emperor’s battles.
Among them are the battle of Aboukir, Napoleon’s victory over the Turkish
and the Battle of Austerliz, where Napoleon defeated the Austrians
The best known relief is the Departure of the Volunteers in 1792, also known as the Marseillaise.
At the top of the arch are thirty shields, each of them bears the name of one of Napoleon’s successful battles.
A Patriotic Symbol
The Arc de Triomphe is a patriotic symbol as well as an historical monument.
Below the arch is the Tomb of an Unknown Soldier, honoring the nameless soldiers who died during the First World War.
The Tomb of an Unknown soldier, killed in the First World War, has been lying at the base of the monument since 1921.
An eternal flame has been burning at the tomb since 1923 to commemorate his memory, as well as the group of soldiers who died during battle. Traditionally, it is relit every evening at 6.30pm.
Detailed History of the Unknown Soldier at The Arc de Triomphe
Beginning in 1916, an idea developed to open the doors of the Pantheon so that people could view “one of the unknown soldiers who died valiantly for his country” and on whose tomb
would be inscribed just two words, “A Soldier”, and the date, “1914-191?”.
Espoused in 1918 and supported by a fervent press campaign, the proposition was ultimately accepted. On 12 November 1919, the Chamber of Deputies decided that the anonymous remains of the French soldier killed in combat would be transferred to the Pantheon.
Meanwhile, associations of former combatants challenged the choice of the site, preferring to affirm the exceptional character of his death, symbol of the hundreds of thousands of others killed in action. The author Binet-Valmer led a virulent campaign to entomb this Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe.
On 8 November 1920, the deputies unanimously voted in a law, equally approved unanimously by the Senate, which awarded the honours of the Pantheon “to the remains of one 1914-1918 war”. At three o’clock in the afternoon on 10 November 1920, in a blockhouse at the Verdun citadel transformed into a chapel, a young infantry-man laid down a bouquet of flowers (gathered from the battlefield of Verdun) on one of eight identical coffins brought back from different zones at the Front: Flanders, Artois, the Somme. Ili-de-France, Chemin-des-Dames, Shampagne, Verdun, Lorraine. On 11 November, the tank transporting Leon Gambetta’s heart and the gun carriage bearing the Unknown Soldier’s remains rejoined the Arc de Triomphe.
The catafalque of the Unknown Soldier was lifted into one of the interior chambers of the edifice. A permanent guard was organized until the final humiliation on 28 January 1921 at the centre point of the principal arch facing upon the Champa-Elysees. In the presence of British Prime Minister Lloyd George, Marshall Foch, Joffre, and Petain, and all government, the Minister of War Louis Barthou laid down the Legion of Honor, the Military Medal, and the Military Cross on the tri-color flag covering the coffin, in “supreme homage from the country to the humble and anonymous heroes who fell for her”. Following this ceremony, the Unknown Soldier was at last placed in his tomb where he remains today.
The Memorial Flame in Detail
Two years after the inhumation of the Unknown Soldier, journalist and poet Gabriel Boissy launched the idea of a Memorial Flame, which immediately received enthusiastic public approbation. With active support from Andre Maginot 9then Minister of War), Leon berard (Minister of State Education), and Paul Leon (Director of Fine Arts), the project advanced rapidly.
Edgar Brandt, a wroughtiron craftsman, was selected to execute the torch, designed by architect Henri Favier: a circular bronze shield at the centre of which opened a cannon muzzle from which radiated a frieze of swords. On 11 November 1923, surrounded by a multitude of former combatants, Maginot ignited the flame for the first time. Since that moment, the flame has never been extinguished.
A daily ritual pays tribute to the Great Dead: each evening, at six-thirty, a flame is rekindled by one of the nine hundred associations of former combatants regrouped under the association La Flamme sous l’Arc de Triomphe. During the Occupation, this daily kindling rite was performed unperturbed. On 26 August 1844 at three o’clock in the afternoon, before descending triumphantly down to Champs-Elysees
within liberated Paris, general Charles de Gaulle came to lay down the white-flowered Cross of Lorraine on the Tomb of the unknown Soldier. Since then, the Arc de Triomphe has provided the framework for all great national celebrations: 11 November, 8 May, and, of course, the national fete of 14 July.
Place Charles de Gaulle
The arch is located at the end of the Champs-Elysées, in the middle of the Place Charles de Gaulle, a large circular square from which no less than 12 streets emanate.
The streets are named after French military leaders.
A Panoramic Platform
In addition to the sculptures, the museum and the eternal flame, the Arc de Triomphe retains another feature appreciated greatly by visitors in search of a little lift: a panoramic platform.
Situated at the top of the monument, it offers an unobstructed view of the capital, from the Louvre
to the La Défense.
The top of the arch also boasts a slightly elevated viewing platform from where you have great views from a few steps higher, of the Champs-Elysées, Eiffel Tower
and the Sacré-Coeur
Likewise, it gives the opportunity to admire the star surrounding the monument and formed by the 12 avenues around the Place Charles de Gaulle well known under its former name, Place de l’Etoile.
Make sure you take one of the underpasses to the arch, it is too dangerous to try and cross the street. There is no elevator in the arch, so be prepared to walk up 234 steps.
Charles de Gaulle-Étoile (M1, M2, M6, RER-A)
Place Charles de Gaulle
Arrondissements 8, 16, 17
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