The arc de triomphe history: Arc de Triomphe in Paris • Facts and tips • Come to Paris

Arc de Triomphe | History, Location, & Facts

Arc de Triomphe, in full Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, massive triumphal arch in Paris, France, one of the world’s best-known commemorative monuments. The Arc de Triomphe is an iconic symbol of French national identity and took 30 years to build. The Tour de France bicycle race ends near it each year, and the annual military parade marking July 14—known both as French National Day and Bastille Day—begins its journey at the arch.

It stands at the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle (formerly called the Place de l’Étoile), the western terminus of the avenue des Champs-Élysées; just over 1.2 miles (2 km) away, at the eastern terminus, is the Place de la Concorde. Napoleon I commissioned the triumphal arch in 1806—after his great victory at the Battle of Austerlitz (1805)—to celebrate the military achievements of the French armies. The arch, designed by Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin, is 164 feet (50 metres) high and 148 feet (45 metres) wide. It sits in a circular plaza from which 12 grand avenues radiate, forming a star (étoile), which is why it is also called Arch of Triumph of the Star.

Construction of the arch began in 1806, on August 15, Napoleon’s birthday. Little more than the foundation had been completed by the time of his marriage to the Austrian archduchess Marie-Louise in 1810, so, in honour of her ceremonial entry into Paris, a full-scale depiction of the completed design, created from wood and painted canvas, was erected at the site. That gave Chalgrin the opportunity to see his design in place on the site, and he made some small amendments to it. At the time of his death in 1811, only a small portion of the structure had been completed, and work slowed further after Napoleon’s abdication as emperor and the Bourbon Restoration (1814). Thus, little more was accomplished until the resumption of work was ordered in 1823 by King Louis XVIII, who was motivated by the success of the French invasion of Spain that restored King Ferdinand VII’s power as absolute monarch. The basic structure of the monument was finished by 1831; work was completed in 1836, during the reign of King Louis-Philippe, who opened it officially on July 29.

Chalgrin’s design is Neoclassical, inspired in part by the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum. Decorative high-relief sculptures celebrating military victories of the Revolution and the First Empire were executed on the facades of the arch’s four pedestals by François Rude, Jean-Pierre Cortot, and Antoine Etex. The most famous of those sculptures is Rude’s group Departure of the Volunteers of 1792 (popularly called La Marseillaise). Other surfaces are decorated with the names of hundreds of generals and battles. A stairway of 284 steps reaches from the ground level to the top of the monument; an elevator goes partway up the monument, but from there the top, where an observation deck is located, can only be reached by climbing the remaining steps. One level below the observation deck is a small museum with interactive exhibits on the history of the arch. Beneath the arch lies France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, added in 1921. A flame of remembrance there, first lit in 1923, is rekindled each evening. An annual ceremony marking the anniversary of the 1918 armistice that ended World War I is held at the arch.

The Arc de Triomphe continues to serve as an iconic symbol of France, to the country itself and to the world. The coffins of many French luminaries, such as Victor Hugo and Ferdinand Foch, have lain in state there before their interment elsewhere. In addition, victory parades have frequently marched past the arch, both those of invading powers (such as Germany, in 1871 and 1940) and of France and its allies (in 1918, 1944 upon the liberation of Paris during World War II, and 1945 after the end of the war in Europe).

Lorraine Murray


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90,000 Triumphal arch in Paris: History, Description, Photo

Address: France, Paris, Square Charles de Gaulle (Star Square)
Start of construction: 1806
End of construction: 1836
Architect: Jean Chalgrin
Height: 49. 51 m.
Width: 44.82 m.

Short description

Arc de Triomphe Story

Arc de Triomphe today

Arc de Triomphe on the map

Brief description

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris is one of the greatest monuments of history and architecture, which is known to any more or less literate inhabitant of our planet.

It is located in the legendary eighth arrondissement of the capital of France, on the square called Place Charles de Gaulle or Place de la Zvezda. If we consider these two names, it becomes clear that one of them was given to the square in honor of the great commander of the Second World War, but the “Star” square was named because of the twelve even rays-avenues that diverge from it in different directions of Paris. One of these twelve avenues is the famous Champs Elysees.

View of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris was built in 30 years from 1806 to 1836. Its construction began on the orders of the greatest French conqueror and strategist, Napoleon Bonaparte . The triumphal arch in Paris was supposed to become a symbol of the great victories of the emperor and the man who “redrawn” the map of the Old World along with his fearless army. True, Napoleon made the decision to build the arch back in 1805, inspired by his own talent as a military strategist, who helped him win a heavy victory at the Battle of Austerlitz. The project of the future historical monument was developed by the architect Jean Chalgrin, who, alas, did not manage to see his brainchild with his own eyes: he died back in 1811. However, the great Arc de Triomphe, which is one of the main attractions of Paris, immortalized his name for posterity.

Arc de Triomphe… People got used to this name for a long time. By the way, Paris is not the only city where you can find a triumphal arch.

Bird’s eye view of the Arc de Triomphe

There are quite a few of them, although they are not as famous as the one located in the center of the “12-pointed Star”. Let’s be honest, not everyone knows the origin of the word “triumph” itself: where it first appeared, what it means, and why the arch in Paris is called the Triumphal. The word “triumph” comes from the Latin language, and became widespread in the Great Roman Empire. The triumph meant the entry of the great commander and his army into the capital with victory.

Moreover, the victory had to be won unconditionally, quickly and with the least losses for the triumph. Triumph is also the most precious reward for a commander, without which he could not call himself and his legion great. Only after his Triumph Gaius Julius Caesar was taken seriously by the people and recognized as a great emperor. It is from the time of the Roman Empire that the word “triumph” traces its history, and the arches through which the generals passed with their armies began to be called triumphal.

View of the Arc de Triomphe from Avenue de la Grande Armé

The history of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris

As mentioned above, the architect Jean Chalgrin, who designed the Arc de Triomphe, died almost immediately after laying the foundation of the future building. The construction of the structure was constantly suspended, as the emperor began to suffer defeats on the battlefields. It is for this reason that the arch took so long to build.

Napoleon himself did not live to see his great triumph: all work on the arch was completed in 1836 , France was already ruled by Louis Philippe. The work was supervised by the new architect Abel Blouet. However, the dream of a great warrior, or, as many call him, a tyrant, nevertheless became a reality. In December 1840, a cortege carrying a coffin passed under the vaults of the arch, in which the remains of Napoleon Bonaparte, who died far from Paris on the island of St. Helena, were buried in early May 1821. Not only Napoleon was awarded such an honor: under the vaults of the arch, designed to celebrate the Triumph, the coffins with the bodies of Victor Hugo, Gambette, Lazarus Carnot and other equally famous personalities later stopped.

Arc de Triomphe in Paris side view

Arc de Triomphe in Paris, alas, has become a symbol of triumph not only for outstanding military commanders, writers and rulers of France. In 1940, a procession of fascist invaders passed through the Arc de Triomphe, to whom Paris surrendered almost without resistance in order to somehow preserve the priceless monuments of history and architecture. Hitler knew perfectly well the meaning of the word “triumph” and what the legendary Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees meant to the French.

The dictator and evil genius of the 20th century ordered his army to march defiantly through the Arc de Triomphe and then triumphantly march through the Champs Elysees. Thus, the Nazis once again enjoyed their own triumph, for which millions of people had to pay with their lives. But this is already a story that, by the way, the Parisians do not like to remember, because for them that parade was nothing but humiliation and shame.

Sculptural group from avenue de la Grande-Armé “Peace 1815” by sculptor Antoine Etex

Arc de Triomphe today

If we look at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris today, we can see a majestic structure, which reaches a height of almost 50 meters and a width of 44. 82 meters . However, these dry figures, of course, cannot convey the grandeur and beauty of the arch. The architect’s project was brought to life in the antique style. Glory and triumph are symbolized by beautiful maidens with wings that blow fanfare.

These sculptures on the arch are by Swiss-born architect Jean-Jacques Pradier, who was once awarded the Prix de Rome for his accomplishments not only in sculpture but also in painting. On the arch you can also see a sculpture called “La Marseillaise”, which symbolizes the protest of the volunteers against the Prussian army, which captured Lorraine. The Triumph of 1810 also draws attention – this sculpture by Cortot, dedicated to the signing of the Peace of Vienna in 1815. The arch is decorated with the sculptures “Peace” and “Resistance” belonging to Etex.

Sculptural group from the side of the Champs-Elysees “La Marseillaise” by sculptor Ryuda

The last sculptor is known only in narrow circles, he, alas, never received world recognition, although his creations adorn the legendary Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

A tourist looking at the arch will certainly see on its walls the names of bloody battles that were won by France at different times. The names of the greatest French commanders are forever engraved on it. The arch itself is surrounded by a hundred pedestals, interconnected by the heaviest chains made of durable cast iron. This is not just a decoration or fence of the sights of Paris.

One hundred pedestals are meant to symbolize the “one hundred greatest days” of the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte’s empire. In the arch itself, there is also an interesting, albeit small, building that houses a museum: in it, the visitor can get acquainted with the history of construction and learn about the triumphal processions that took place under the Arc de Triomphe.

The sculptural group from the side of the Champs-Elysées “Triumph of 1810” by sculptor Cortot

Even if you get acquainted with the Arc de Triomphe in Paris without the help of a guide, it is impossible not to pay attention to the grave under its vaults. Not the greatest ruler or commander is buried there: at 19In 21, the most ordinary ordinary soldier was buried there, who died on the battlefield during the First World War, whose name is still unknown. All visitors to the greatest architectural monument are invited to climb the arch from which you can enjoy the panorama of Paris. Naturally, the view that opens from a 50-meter height cannot be compared with what can be seen from the Eiffel Tower, but it can also delight any tourist. A traveler who comes to Paris for impressions should definitely know that The best way to get to the Arc de Triomphe is through numerous underground passages, since the flow of vehicles near it does not stop even late at night . You can climb the arch any day of the week; it is open for tourists from 10 am to 11 pm. True, for acquaintance with it you will have to pay a small fee of 10 euros.

Sculptural groups from the side of avenue de la Grande-Armé “Resistance 1814” by sculptor Antoine Etex

According to statistical studies conducted by travel companies, it can be concluded that a tourist who has arrived in Paris, or even a businessman who has visited France on a business trip, first of all goes to either the Arc de Triomphe or the Eiffel Tower. These two symbols, like a magnet, attract not only guests of the French capital, but also the Parisians themselves. There is nothing surprising in this, because it is the Arc de Triomphe that is the place that, like a mirror, reflects in itself the events that took place not only in the capital, but throughout the country from the beginning of 19century to the present day.

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Arc de Triomphe in Paris – details with photo

Video: Arc de Triomphe in Paris


  • Highlights
  • Construction of the Arc de Triomphe
  • Historical events around the arch
  • Sculpture
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    The dimensions of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris are impressive and emphasize it greatness. The architectural structure rises to 49.5 m, has a width of 44.8 m and a vault height of over 29 meters. Although more than 180 years have passed since its construction, the arch in the French capital remains the largest of all the triumphal arches in the world.

    The famous monument stands in the historical center of the city, on the square named after Charles de Gaulle. From this place, 12 avenues are laid in different directions, the most famous of them is called the Champs Elysees. The Arc de Triomphe is visible from all sides, and many French and foreign tourists come to it all year round. The area around the monument can be considered a real place of pilgrimage, as the routes of almost all excursions in Paris are laid past it.

    Through the Arc de Triomphe leads the Triumphal Route, which is also called the Royal Perspective. This is a series of buildings and historical monuments, stretched along one axis. It starts from the Louvre, continues through the Tuileries Gardens to Place de la Concorde, and then along the Champs Elysees leads to the arch. The Triumphant Way does not end here. It continues even further from the city center – through the Grand Army Boulevard to the Grand Arch of Defense. The Arc de Triomphe in Paris lies in the middle of the “Royal Perspective”, and therefore it is perfectly visible from the buildings of the historic city center and the ultra-modern high-rise buildings of La Defense.

    Construction of the Arc de Triomphe

    In 1805, the army led by Napoleon won the “Battle of the Three Emperors” near Austerlitz. The emperor really wanted to perpetuate the triumph of his soldiers, and ordered the construction of the Arc de Triomphe in the center of Paris.

    Architects have prepared several projects for the monument. According to one of them, they planned to make a monument in the form of a huge elephant, in which a museum would be arranged, telling about the victories of the French troops. However, the emperor’s attention was attracted by the project of Jean-Francois Chalgrin, the court architect of Napoleon I, who chose the famous single-span arch of Titus in Rome as the prototype of the Parisian monument.

    The ancient monument appeared during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian, in 81 AD. The Arch of Titus stood on the ancient Sacred Way, southeast of the Roman Forum. The laconic, beautiful monument served as a prototype for many triumphal arches built in modern times.

    As in the Roman arch, the monument in the capital of France was planned to be made with one expressive span and powerful pillars. At the behest of Napoleon, Chalgrin designed a French arch three times the size of the ancient arch of Titus. The following year, work began on the construction of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. And five years later, the elderly author of the monument died. This happened at a time when the arch was not completed by only 5 meters in height.

    The construction of the Arc de Triomphe dragged on for a long three decades due to a series of French military defeats. In 1806-1807, a foundation was laid under the massive monument. In 1810, the bride of the emperor, Marie Louise of Austria, arrived in the capital of France. In honor of her visit, the wooden scaffolding of the monument under construction was decorated with a harsh canvas, which depicted a finished arch. So Napoleon was able to see his dream in the form of a large life-size model. The architect Abel Blue had the opportunity to complete the construction work. In 1836, when the Arc de Triomphe was finally built, the emperor who conceived it was no longer alive.

    Historical events near the arch

    In 1840, the ruler of France, Louis-Philippe I, to please the Bonapartists, transported the ashes of Emperor Napoleon to his homeland from the place where he spent the last years of his life. The remains were taken from the remote island of St. Helena, placed on a pompously decorated funeral cortege and carried with honors under the arches of the majestic Arc de Triomphe. Today, the ashes of Napoleon are in the building of the Les Invalides (Rue de Babylone, 70).

    Since then, solemn funerals through the Arc de Triomphe in Paris have become a state tradition. Funeral corteges of the famous writer Victor Hugo, politicians Louis Adolphe Thiers, Lazare-Hippolyte Carnot, Patrice de MacMahon and Léon Michel Gambetta, army generals Ferdinand Foch, Joseph Joffre and Philippe Leclerc, as well as Marshal Jean de Latre de Tassigny passed under the famous monument .

    In 1921, the remains of the Unknown Soldier, who gave his life during the recent war, were moved under the Parisian monument. And two years later, the Eternal Flame was installed here as a symbol of memory of all the inhabitants of France who did not return from the fields of the First World War.

    Sculptural decoration

    The solemnity of the Arc de Triomphe is determined not only by its large size, but also by carefully executed decor – ornaments, bas-reliefs and sculptures. Two sculptural compositions face the city center (Champs Elysées). On the right is a dynamic work by the French master Francois Rude. It is dedicated to the performance of volunteers against the army of Prussia, which entered Lorraine in 1792, and is called “La Marseillaise”. On the left side, the arch is decorated with a sculptural group made by Jean-Pierre Cortot. It is called the “Triumph of 1815”. In the central part of this composition, the sculptor depicted the figure of Napoleon himself.

    On the side of the Defense (Avenue de la Grande-Armée) there are two sculptures, the author of which is the famous French artist Antoine Etex. On the left you can see the “Peace of 1815”, depicting the events of the Congress of Vienna. And on the right is a composition dedicated to the events of the French resistance in 1814.

    Above the four sculptures, as well as on the sides of the Arc de Triomphe, there are 6 bas-reliefs with scenes of victories won by the French. From the side of Wagram Avenue there is an image of the battle near Austerlitz (1805), where the figures of Russian soldiers are visible. This bas-relief was created by Jean-Francois Theodor Gescher. And on the opposite side is the work of Carlo Marochetti. The bas-relief commemorates the battle near the town of Jemappe in Belgium, which took place between the French and the Austrians in 1792.

    From the side of the city center you can see a bas-relief by Bernard Gabriel Serra or Serra the Elder, on which the commander of the Ottoman Empire, Said Mustafa Pasha, is presented to Emperor Napoleon. These events took place after the French victory at the Battle of Cape Aboukir in Egypt (1799). And next to it is a bas-relief with a scene of the funeral of the French General Marceau, which happened in 1796.

    From the side of the monument, facing the modern quarter of Defense, you can see the bas-reliefs that immortalized two famous battles: the battle of Arcola in Italy (1796) and the battle for the Egyptian Kanob, which took place two years later.

    In addition, the names of 128 battles in which the French army won, as well as the names of 660 commanders, are written on the pillars of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The names of those who fell in battle are crossed out. The monument is surrounded by massive granite pedestals, which are connected by heavy cast-iron chains. They celebrate the hundred days when Napoleon ruled.

    Arc de Triomphe today

    Every year on July 14, a magnificent military parade ceremony is held near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Parisians and guests of the city lay wreaths and fresh flowers at the grave and the Memorial Flame. The President of the country and the remaining veterans take part in the celebration.

    A museum of the same name has been opened inside the Paris landmark, where you can learn about the history of its construction and the events that took place near the Arc de Triomphe. And at the top of the monument, an observation deck has been created, which is very popular with tourists. The attention that this observation point on the Chaillot hill attracts is not accidental. From here you have excellent views of the central part of the city and its suburbs.