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Triumphal Arch

The Arc de Triomphe is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. It stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle, at the western end of the Champs-Elysees. There is a smaller arch, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, which stands west of the Louvre. The Arc de Triomphe (in English: "Triumphal Arch") honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe is the linchpin of the historic axis (Axe historique)-a sequence of monuments and grand thoroughfares on a route which goes from the courtyard of the Louvre, to the Grande Arche de la Defense. The monument was designed by Jean Chalgrin in 1806, and its iconographic program pitted heroically nude French youths against bearded Germanic warriors in chain mail. It set the tone for public monuments, with triumphant patriotic messages.

The monument stands 50 metres (164 ft) in height, 45 m (148 ft) wide and 22 m (72 ft) deep. The large vault is 29.19 m (95.8 ft) high and 14.62 m (48.0 ft) wide. The small vault is 18.68 m (61.3 ft) high and 8.44 m (27.7 ft) wide. It is the second largest triumphal arch in existence (after Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang).Its design was inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus. The Arc de Triomphe is so colossal that three weeks after the Paris victory parade in 1919, (marking the end of hostilities in World War I), Charles Godefroy flew his Nieuport biplane through it, with the event captured on newsreel.

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The astylar design is by Jean Chalgrin (1739-1811), in the Neoclassical version of ancient Roman architecture (see, for example, the triumphal Arch of Titus). Major academic sculptors of France are represented in the sculpture of the Arc de Triomphe: Jean-Pierre Cortot; Franoois Rude; Antoine Etex; James Pradier and Philippe Joseph Henri Lemaire. The main sculptures are not integral friezes but are treated as independent trophies applied to the vast ashlar masonry masses, not unlike the gilt-bronze appliques on Empire furniture. The four sculptural groups at the base of the Arc are The Triumph of 1810 (Cortot), Resistance and Peace (both by Antoine Etex) and the most renowned of them all, Departure of the Volunteers of 1792 commonly called La Marseillaise. The face of the allegorical representation of France calling forth her people on this last was used as the belt buckle for the honorary rank of Marshal of France. Since the fall of Napoleon (1815), the sculpture representing Peace is interpreted as commemorating the Peace of 1815.

In the attic above the richly sculptured frieze of soldiers are 30 shields engraved with the names of major Revolutionary and Napoleonic military victories.[11] The inside walls of the monument list the names of 660 people, among which are 558 French generals of the First French Empire;[12] the names of those who died in battle are underlined. Also inscribed, on the shorter sides of the four supporting columns, are the names of the major victorious battles of the Napoleonic Wars. The battles that took place in the period between the departure of Napoleon from Elba to his final defeat at Waterloo are not included. There was at the top of the Arc from 1882 to 1886, a monumental sculpture of Alexandre Falguiere, "Le triomphe de la Revolution" (the Triumph of the Revolution), a chariot drawn by horses preparing "to crush Anarchy and Despotism", that remained only four years up there before falling in ruins. Inside the monument, a new permanent exhibition conceived by the artist Maurice Benayoun and the architect Christophe Girault opened in February 2007. The steel and new media installation interrogates the symbolism of the national monument, questioning the balance of its symbolic message during the last two centuries, oscillating between war and peace.

The original elevators from the second to the third floor were also of a water-powered hydraulic design supplied by Leon Edoux. Instead of using a separate counterbalance, the two elevator cars counterbalanced each other. A pair of 81 metre long hydraulic rams were mounted on the second level reaching nearly half way up to the third level. An elevator car was mounted on top of the rams. Ropes ran from the top of this car up to a sheave on the third level and back down to a second car. The result of this arrangement was that each car only travelled half the distance between the second and third levels and passengers were required to change elevators halfway walking between the cars along a narrow gangway with a very impressive and relatively unobstructed downward view. The ten-ton cars held 65 passengers each or up to four tons.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

Beneath the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the First World War. Interred here on Armistice Day 1920,it has the first eternal flame lit in Western and Eastern Europe since the Vestal Virgins' fire was extinguished in the fourth century. It burns in memory of the dead who were never identified (now in both World Wars). A ceremony is held there every 11 November on the anniversary of the armistice signed between France and Germany in 1918. It was originally decided on 12 November 1919 to bury the unknown soldier's remains in the Pantheon, but a public letter-writing campaign led to the decision to bury him beneath the Arc de Triomphe. The coffin was put in the chapel on the first floor of the Arc on 10 November 1920, and put in its final resting place on 28 January 1921. The slab on top carries the inscription ICI REPOSE UN SOLDAT FRANCAIS MORT POUR LA PATRIE 1914-1918 ("Here lies a French soldier who died for the fatherland 1914-1918").

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy of the United States paid their respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, accompanied by French President Charles de Gaulle. After the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy, Mrs Kennedy remembered the eternal flame at the Arc de Triomphe and requested that an eternal flame be placed next to her husband's grave at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. President Charles de Gaulle went to Washington to attend the state funeral, and witnessed Jacqueline Kennedy lighting the eternal flame that had been inspired by her visit to France.

Transcript
One of the most popular sights in Paris is the gleaming white Arc de Triomphe. This famous monument is much larger than many realize; in 1919, a biplane flew through it. The Arc lies at a convergence of many of the major avenues of Paris. It was commissioned by Napoleon to commemorate those who have fought for France. There are four relief sculptures, one on each "leg" of the Arc, that celebrate France's military. Underneath the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, laid after World War 1. There is a museum inside, as well as a magnificent view of Paris from the roof.