Construction Of The Arc

Commissioned by war genius Napoleon I to commemorate his successful military conquest of Europe, the Arc de Triomphe stands as a monument to French history.  Designed by architect Jean François Thérèse Chalgrin the structure is the largest triumphal arch in the world, standing two times larger than the Roman Arch of Constantine, which the Arc was modeled after.  In 1814 construction of the Arc came to an abrupt end as Napoleon relinquished his seat as the head of France.  However, in 1833 construction resumed under King Louis-Philippe I as a dedication to the French armed forces.  Under King Louis, Guillaume Abel Blouet completed the Arc based the original design of Chalgrin who is most often credited with the design of the Arc itself. Sitting atop the crown of the Champs Elysées, the Arc was finally completed in 1836.  Today, the Arc rises out of the crossroads of twelve busy roads as it stands quite literally at the center of French life. 

Design Features Of The Arc

Standing as a monument to French patriotism, the Arc de Triomphe is engraved with the names of French war victories and the names of 558 French generals.  Many of those names are underlined, which denotes a war casualty.  Each of the Arc’s four pillars is ornamented with large sculptural reliefs depicting war triumphs with the notable exception of Napoleon’s final battles leading up to his defeat at Waterloo.  In 1920 a tomb of an unknown World War I soldier was laid under the Arch.  An eternal flame was placed next to the tomb to honor victims of the world wars. In 1961 President John F. Kennedy visited the eternal flame, which would later his wife to place an eternal flame next to her husband’s grave.  The Arc received its last “addition” in 2007 when an artist and architect designed an art piece questioning the bloody past so celebrated by this storied French structure.  

Visiting the Arc de Triomphe

Regardless of one’s interpretation of this monument, the Arc de Triomphe stands as a testament to the rich and vibrant history of France and is a still a symbol of modern French culture.  The Arc has been at the symbolic center of many of France’s most important historical moments.  The remains of Napoleon were brought through the Arc en route to his final resting place, and the body of French author Victor Hugo’s was exposed at the foot of the monument.  The Arc was always at the center of wartime victory parades, and it is still traveled through at the beginning and end of every parade on Bastille Day and Armistice Day to commemorate these past wars.  Today, the Arc de Triomphe is a very popular destination for visitors and citizens alike.  The bottom of the Arc can be visited at no cost, while visitors make their way up to the top of the structure via 264 stairs.  While on top, visitors are delighted with breathtaking views of Paris’ Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.   The best time to visit the Arc is in the evening after the eternal flame has been lit.