What is the Arc de Triomphe? And brief History of it
What is the Arc de Triomphe? And brief History of it – When talking about iconic landmarks and attractions, Paris is a city that’s hard to beat. This capital of France is a treasure trove of monumental landmarks such as Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower. But if you’re keen to dive into France’s rich History, the Arc de Triomphe is the place to start your journey.
This grand monument is the centerpiece of Paris’ famous sightseeing route, the Ax Historique, and a powerful symbol representing the highs and lows of military History. And there’s a fact that makes it even more special: 2014 marks the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, giving your visit extra meaning.
But that’s not all. Beneath the Arc de Triomphe lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a moving tribute to the unknown soldiers who lost their lives in battle. Visiting the Arc de Triomphe offers a unique opportunity to connect with History, remember the martyrs, and witness the glory and despair of military battle all from one place.
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Who built the Arc de Triomphe?
French architect Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin designed the Arc de Triomphe. Chalgrin’s design was inspired by the Arch of Titus in Rome but was enlarged to an unprecedented scale to embody the grandeur of the Napoleonic era. Construction began in 1806, but Jean-Arnaud Raymond continued work after Chalgrin’s death in 1811. The monument was finally completed in 1836, long after the fall of Napoleon, by the French architect Guillaume-Abel Blouet, who oversaw its final stages. The collective efforts of these architects resulted in the iconic monument we see today in Charles de Gaulle Square in Paris.
History of the Arc de Triomphe
As impressive as the structure itself is the Arc de Triomphe’s History. Napoleon constructed this magnificent arch to commemorate France’s military triumphs and the first stone was put on the Emperor’s birthday, August 15, 1806, and August 15. However, the building process took over thirty years and wasn’t finished until 1836—long after Napoleon’s death in 1821.
Unfortunately, This delay meant that Napoleon never fully realized his grand vision. Still, the Arc de Triomphe is a testament to France’s military glory and turbulent History. Over the years, it has witnessed numerous military parades symbolizing victory and sorrow. German and French armies marched under his massive presence and celebrated their respective victories.
One of the most exciting moments in its History occurs in 1919 when French pilot Charles Godefroy boldly flew his Nieuport biplane through the arch. This bold move was a symbolic gesture to commemorate the end of the First World War and etched an unforgettable image in the History of the Arc de Triomphe.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Beneath the towering Arc de Triomphe lies one of its most poignant features: the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Inaugurated on Armistice Day 1920, this solemn monument pays tribute to the countless lost souls whose names remain unknown in the Great War. It not only commemorates those lost in that war but is also a symbol of all the unidentified casualties in conflicts worldwide. An eternal flame marks the tomb, a constant reminder of the sacrifices made.
Since 1920, out of deep respect, or perhaps superstition, all military regiments, including those of the Nazis and the Allies, have consciously chosen to pass directly under the Arc. Instead, they solemnly march around it, honoring the sanctity of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This tradition emphasizes the deep respect and importance that the grave holds in the hearts of many, standing as a lasting symbol of remembrance and respect.
Sculpture and design
The Arc de Triomphe is adorned with sculptures by some of the greatest French artists of the 19th century. Each of these designs represents an essential theme in the country’s History. The most famous of these is the cluster of sculptures by Francois Rude, Departure of the Volunteers of 1792, depicting a group of volunteers from Marseille fighting for the National Guard during the French Revolution.
Where is the Arc de Triomphe?
If you’re considering visiting the Arc de Triomphe (and let’s face it, who wouldn’t?), head to Place Charles de Gaulle. Previously known as Place de l’Étoile, it was renamed in 1970 in memory of the famous general and president. You’ll find this renowned area at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, where twelve major roads meet, creating a unique and vibrant hub in the heart of Paris. The Arc de Triomphe stands majestically here, dominating the skyline and offering an unforgettable city view.
Enjoy breathtaking views from the summit by taking the elevator or walking the 46 endurance steps. Once you reach the top, the view of the Paris skyline is one of the most impressive, and if you time it right, you can catch some fantastic sunsets. For history buffs, there is also a fascinating museum detailing a bit of the History and construction of the arc.
What does this place mean?
Napoleon’s triumph at the Battle of Austerlitz prompted the construction of the Arc du Triomphe in 1806. The enormous triumphal arch took over 30 years to build and is over 50 meters high. Reach the summit for unobstructed views of the Champs-Élysées and the Louvre, as well as stunning vistas of Paris. While entry and the summit are ticketed events, the outside is open to the public for free viewing. The arch may be pretty dangerous to cross because it is situated at the crossroads of 12 streets; instead, choose the security of the underground tunnel.
Wow. What’s it like to be there?
The Arc de Triomphe is located at busiest traffic intersection in Paris, with 12 streets radiating from its center. Despite all the chaos buzzing around you, take a quiet moment to consider the Tomb of the Fallen Soldier, placed under the arch after World War I. The statues lining the façade of the arch have been recently renovated to remove all the accumulated pollution. Dirt, so it looks better than ever.
A major tourist destination, the Arc de Triomphe is a symbol of Paris. Because of its close vicinity to the Champs-Élysées, a famous shopping avenue, it’s simple to combine a visit here with other activities. While some come just to snap the obligatory selfies in front of the elaborate facade, others decide to ascend the almost 300 stairs to the summit. Wheelchair-accessible ramps connect the various deck levels, and an elevator transports guests from the museum hall to the observation deck.