Arc de Triomphe


When in Paris, the Arc de Triomphe is hard to miss. Standing 160ft high and 148ft wide at the end of the Champs-Elysees boulevard, in the middle of the Place Charles de Gaulle, the Arc towers over every other structure nearby.

Upon commission from Napoleon, this beautiful structure was designed in 1806 by Jean Chalgrin, who’s design was inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus. Chalgrin passed in 1811, and all architectural work was taken over by Jean-Nicholas Huyot. Work on the Arc was halted during the Bourbon Restoration, however finally in 1836 the third architect, Hericart de Thury, completed its construction.

The monument honors the soldiers who fought and died for France during the Napoleonic Wars, however the Arc also features the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with an eternal flame kept burning. This addition was added after the first World War on Armistice Day, and is a tribute and remembrance for all unknown soldiers who fought and died for their country. Since the addition of the tomb, it has been customary for all troops to march around the tomb instead of underneath it as a sign of respect for the tomb. Even Hitler ordered his troops to march around the Arc instead of underneath.

The Arc is quite a significant landmark for Parisians and Quite a few notable events have taken place at the Arc de Triomphe since its construction:

  • Napoleon’s body was carried underneath it after his passing, as well as the body of Victor Hugo being displayed there before burial.
  • In 1919, Charles Godefroy actually flew his plane under the Arc.
  • The annual Bastille Day parade takes place using the Arc as a center point
  • Successful troops home from war have rallied here in past years
  • German troops have marched through the Arc

After the Arc de Triomphe was built, 3 more Arc’s were actually built in an attempt to prolong the Avenue des Champs-Elysees: Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, and the Grand Arche. These monuments all form Paris’s Axe Historique.