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18 Facts About the Arc de Triomphe - The Symbol of Courage

Facts About the Arc de Triomphe
Hundreds of monuments around the world narrate the valiant stories of thousands of men who lost their lives fighting for a cause. The Arc de Triomphe in France is one such monument; a symbol of Napoleon's aspirations of world conquest.
Abhijit Naik
Last Updated: Feb 20, 2018
Did You Know?
Even though the Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoleon, he himself never got to see it. The triumphal arch was only completed 15 years after his death.
The first thing to come to your mind when we say Paris is most likely to be the Eiffel Tower, the 300-meter-high wrought iron tower located on the Champ de Mars. However, there is yet another monument in Paris which has long been lauded for its historic significance. We are referring to the Arc de Triomphe, the monument honoring the brave soldiers who fought for France, particularly, during the Napoleonic Wars.

The triumphal arch was erected at the Place Charles de Gaulle (previously known as the Place de l'Étoile) in the 19th century. It's the place where twelve avenues, including the Champs-Élysées, meet. Annually, on July 14, i.e., the French National Day, a military parade starts at the Arc de Triomphe and makes its way down the Champs Élysées.
Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile
  • After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy requested that an eternal flame, like the one present on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, be placed next to her husband's grave.
  • The monument was designed by renowned French architect, Jean Chalgrin in 1806. After Chalgrin's death in 1811, Jean-Nicolas Huyot was commissioned to complete his work.
  • Its design was largely inspired by the Arch of Titus―a marble triumphal arch in Rome.
  • A wooden replica of the arch was constructed for Napoleon and his bride, Marie Louise to enter Paris in 1810.
  • The construction of this monument came to a brief halt in 1814 due to Napoleon's abdication, only to be resumed in 1826.
  • Although it was ordered by Napoleon I, the construction of this triumphal arch was only completed in 1836―15 years after his death―during the reign of French King, Louis Philippe.
  • Napoleon's body was taken through the arch on December 15, 1840, when it was taken to its final resting place, Les Invalides in Paris.
  • The cost of building this monument was 9.3 million francs; a large sum of money at that time.
  • The second largest triumphal arch in existence today, the Arc de Triomphe is 51 m tall, 45 m wide, and 22 m deep. In fact, it was the largest triumphal arch in the world, until Kim II Sung, the dictator of North Korea, built the Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang in 1982.
  • The Arc is so huge that aviator Charles Godefroy was able to fly his Nieuport fighter plane through it at the 1919 Paris Victory Parade to mark the end of World War I.
  • Other famous victory parades held at the Arc include those by the French in 1918 and the French along with the allies in 1944 - 1945. On the other hand, the Germans marched through the arch in 1871 to celebrate their victory in the Franco-Prussian War and Nazis in 1940 during World War II.
  • Of the 600 names engraved on the inner face of the Arch, 558 are those of French generals of the First French Empire.
  • There are 30 shields at the top of the arch bearing the names of each of Napoleon's glorious victories. Its four supporting columns sport the names of major battles among the Napoleonic Wars.
  • At the base of the four pillars of this arch lie four relief sculptures, namely the Triumph of 1810, Resistance, Peace, and La Marseillaise.
  • Beneath the arch, is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, wherein an eternal flame burns in memory of the dead who were never identified in both world wars. It was placed there on November 11, 1920.
  • The inscription on the tomb of the unknown soldier reads: Ici Repose un Soldat Français Mort pour La Patrie 1914 - 1918, meaning "Here lies a French soldier who died for his fatherland 1914 - 1918".
  • After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy requested that an eternal flame, like the one present on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, be placed next to her husband's grave.
  • An observatory located on the top of the arch offers a panoramic view of La Défense, Europe's largest purpose-built business district, and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris.
Post Script: Adolf Hitler had plans of building the world's largest triumphal arch in Germany. If the projected design is to go by, it would have fitted 49 arches the size of Arc de Triomphe in it.
Arc de Triomphe at sunset Paris
Arc De Triomphe Paris