Arc de Triomphe - Paris
The Arc de Triomphe (Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile) is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. It stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle (originally named Place de l'Étoile), at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. 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.
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 Défense. 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 was the largest triumphal arch in existence until the construction of the Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang, in 1982. 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.
The Arc is located on the right bank of the Seine at the centre of a dodecagonal configuration of twelve radiating avenues. It was commissioned in 1806 after the victory at Austerlitz by Emperor Napoleon at the peak of his fortunes. Laying the foundations alone took two years and, in 1810, when Napoleon entered Paris from the west with his bride Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria, he had a wooden mock-up of the completed arch constructed. The architect, Jean Chalgrin, died in 1811 and the work was taken over by Jean-Nicolas Huyot. During the Bourbon Restoration, construction was halted and it would not be completed until the reign of King Louis-Philippe, between 1833 and 1836, by the architects Goust, then Huyot, under the direction of Héricart de Thury. On 15 December 1840, brought back to France from Saint Helena, Napoleon's remains passed under it on their way to the Emperor's final resting place at the Invalides. Prior to burial in the Panthéon, the body of Victor Hugo was exposed under the Arc during the night of 22 May 1885.
The sword carried by the Republic in the Marseillaise relief broke off on the day, it is said, that the Battle of Verdun began in 1916. The relief was immediately hidden by tarpaulins to conceal the accident and avoid any undesired ominous interpretations. On 7 August 1919, Charles Godefroy successfully flew his biplane under the Arc. Jean Navarre was the pilot who was tasked to make the flight, but he died on 10 July 1919 when he crashed near Villacoublay while training for the flight.
Following its construction, the Arc de Triomphe became the rallying point of French troops parading after successful military campaigns and for the annual Bastille Day Military Parade. Famous victory marches around or under the Arc have included the Germans in 1871, the French in 1919, the Germans in 1940, and the French and Allies in 1944 and 1945. A United States postage stamp of 1945 shows the Arc de Triomphe in the background as victorious American troops march down the Champs-Élysées and U.S. airplanes fly overhead on 29 August 1944. After the interment of the Unknown Soldier, however, all military parades (including the aforementioned post-1919) have avoided marching through the actual arch. The route taken is up to the arch and then around its side, out of respect for the tomb and its symbolism. Both Hitler in 1940 and de Gaulle in 1944 observed this custom.
By the early 1960s, the monument had grown very blackened from coal soot and automobile exhaust, and during 1965–1966 it was cleaned through bleaching.
In the prolongation of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, a new arch, the Grande Arche de la Défense, was built in 1982, completing the line of monuments that forms Paris's Axe historique. After the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and the Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, the Grande Arche is the third arch built on the same perspective.
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; François Rude; Antoine Étex; 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 appliqués 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 Étex) and the most renowned of them all, Departure of the Volunteers of 1792 commonly called La Marseillaise (François Rude). 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. The inside walls of the monument list the names of 660 people, among which are 558 French generals of the First French Empire; 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 by Alexandre Falguière, "Le triomphe de la Révolution" (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 one day in my life that I am in Paris, so of course it has to be a gray, rainy, worthless day. O...
Arc de Triomph, Parijs
This is the view from below the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. From here along the Champs Elysee you can s...
Overview and History
Welcome to Paris, the City Of Lights, La Ville-Lumiere! We're going to depart from the standard timeline here and just start looking at pictures. You can put the history together in your mind along the way, or live contentedly with an abstract expression of images, whichever you prefer.
For lessons in light from the expressionist masters, blur yourself directly to the Orsay Museum and find Monet, Renoir and Cezanne waiting. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
The River Seine divides the city into two halves, called the Left Bank and Right Bank. The right bank is on the north side, left to the south. In general the right bank claims the sophistication and modern development in Paris, while the left bank has the universities, parks and historic areas.
There are two islands on the river in the middle of the city, Ile de la Cite and Ile de St. Louis. Here's a beautiful Flower Market on Ile de la City, which is the oldest section of the city. It's also home to Notre Dame cathedral
The Right Bank has a big hill called Montmartre, literally translating to "Mount Mars" or "Mountain of the Martyr", depending on which time period you take the story from. Its name dates back to at least 250A.D and it's home to the Sacre Coeur Basilica among many other things of note, such as the studios of Salvadore Dali, Picasso and Van Gogh.
And what else? The Champs-Elysees, of course! The Champs-Elysees is the most prestigious avenue in Paris. L'Arc de Triomph stands at the western end of the Champs-Elysees, at the star shaped intersection of twelve major avenues which is called Place d'Etoil. The Arch is a monument to all who fought for France, especially during the Napoleonic wars.
By the way, the sprint finish of the Tour de France -- the most prestigious bicycle race in the world -- comes down the Champs-Elysees. Catch it in the early summer.
You may have heard of a museum called Le Louvre. Before you attempt to visit it, go through some tour de france training to build up your stamina. This is a museum big enough to take your whole summer to walk through, and that's without even stopping to look at any of the art.
Situated right along the river is the Place de la Concord, the largest open square in the city. It's where Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and 2,798 of their closest friends met the guillotine during the French Revolution. The smell of blood was so strong, according to the tale, that a herd of cattle refused to cross the square.
Let's see what we have on the Left Bank. How about Les Invalides, a stately group of museums and monuments dedicated to military history, which also houses a hospital and residences for veterans.
The Left Bank has for decades been the center of academic life in Paris, which can be summed up in a word: La Sorbonne. La Sorbonne is the nickname for the University of Paris, founded in 1257. It sits in a historic scholarly sector called the Latin Quarter, which connects La Sorbonne to the Left Bank (Place Maubert). If Paris was a tropical island, this would be the coral reef.
Near La Sorbonne can be found Le Jardin de Luxembourg, where Marie d'Medici's chateau stands. It's a pleasant little country house in Florentine style. They used it for a prison during the French Revolution and for Luftwaffe headquarters during WWII. It now houses the French Senate.
Shakespeare and Co Library sits in the heart of the Latin Quarter and has earned an international reputation for being more than just a bookshop.
Take a look at the Gare du Nord Paris North Station. One of six large train stations in Paris, it's the busiest one in Europe. If you're already on the continent, you very well may arrive here.
As for airports, there are two: Charles De Gualle and Orly. De Gaulle airport is about 25 minutes by train from Gare du Nord station, Orly is a bit closer. Here's the train information for connections to the city.
Here's one of the 380 metro stations in Paris, the Palais-Royale at the Louvre. Looking good! This is Europe's second-largest metro system and it's connected with the buses the commuter rail network to get you around the city.
People and Culture
Remember, champagne was perfected here during the Belle Epoque, and you need the proper setting in which to drink it.
And check out this fish shop!! This is what the zoom tool was made for!
In case you're wondering, there's a gritty side to Paris, too. Here's a little mobile graffiti.
In the same vein, by which I mean "cheap" or "free", stroll around Left Bank to the flea market at Place Maubert.
Street musicians are another great thing about Paris. Here are some drummers, some visual artists on the Quai de Conti, and there should be an organ grinder on the corner when you get there. Let me know if you see him.
Things to do & Recommendations
Street food -- get a croque monsieur or croque madam, it's a toasted cheese sandwich with or without ham. They're so good, it's the pizza slice of Paris! I can't for the life of me understand why nobody has shot a panorama of one.
Street food part 2, and I quote:
"the motherfucking best falafel in the world is there in the Marais. it's called La Du's and it's on the Rue de Rosiers. it's the 5th I think, right bank. If you flirt with the take out boys they'll give you more falafel too, I'm not kidding it's a fucking transcendant experience."
"there's also this bar in the 11th, called the baron rouge, where on sunday a friend of the owner drives in from normandy with a truck full of oysters and just parks it in front of the bar and sells oysters out the back and you just eat them on the street and drink Muscadet off the top of parked cars." (Thank you Allison O'Leary)
No trip to Paris would ever be complete without... well actually the reason Paris is Paris because you never finish seeing it all.
Move there, spend a lifetime there, walk everyplace you go and you still won't see it all. It's like New York, London or Tokyo; anyplace in such a state of constant change will remain eternally elusive.
Text by Steve Smith.