Arc de Triomphe

Last updated

Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe, Paris 5 February 2019.jpg
The Arc de Triomphe in 2019
Arc de Triomphe
Alternative namesArc de Triomphe de l'Étoile
General information
Type Triumphal Arch
Architectural style Neoclassicism
Location Place Charles de Gaulle (formerly Place de l'Étoile)
Coordinates 48°52′26″N2°17′42″E / 48.8738°N 2.2950°E / 48.8738; 2.2950 Coordinates: 48°52′26″N2°17′42″E / 48.8738°N 2.2950°E / 48.8738; 2.2950
Construction started15 August 1806 [1]
Inaugurated29 July 1836 [2]
Height50 m (164 ft)
Other dimensionsWide: 45 m (148 ft)
Deep: 22 m (72 ft)
Design and construction
Architect Jean Chalgrin
Louis-Étienne Héricart de Thury

The Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile ( UK: /ˌɑːrkdəˈtrɒmf,-ˈtrmf/ , [3] [4] US: /-trˈmf/ , [5] French:  [aʁk də tʁijɔ̃f də letwal] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); lit.'"Triumphal Arch of the Star"') is one of the most famous monuments in Paris, France, standing at the western end of the Champs-Élysées at the centre of Place Charles de Gaulle, formerly named Place de l'Étoile—the étoile or "star" of the juncture formed by its twelve radiating avenues. The location of the arc and the plaza is shared between three arrondissements, 16th (south and west), 17th (north) and 8th (east). The Arc de Triomphe honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and 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.


As the central cohesive element of the Axe historique (historic axis, a sequence of monuments and grand thoroughfares on a route running from the courtyard of the Louvre to the Grande Arche de la Défense), the Arc de Triomphe was designed by Jean Chalgrin in 1806; its iconographic programme pits heroically nude French youths against bearded Germanic warriors in chain mail. It set the tone for public monuments with triumphant patriotic messages. Inspired by the Arch of Titus in Rome, Italy, the Arc de Triomphe has an overall height of 50 metres (164 ft), width of 45 m (148 ft) and depth of 22 m (72 ft), while its large vault is 29.19 m (95.8 ft) high and 14.62 m (48.0 ft) wide. The smaller transverse vaults are 18.68 m (61.3 ft) high and 8.44 m (27.7 ft) wide. Three weeks after the Paris victory parade in 1919 (marking the end of hostilities in World War I), Charles Godefroy flew his Nieuport biplane under the arch's primary vault, with the event captured on newsreel. [6] [7] [8]

Paris's Arc de Triomphe was the tallest triumphal arch until the completion of the Monumento a la Revolución in Mexico City in 1938, which is 67 metres (220 ft) high. The Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang, completed in 1982, is modelled on the Arc de Triomphe and is slightly taller at 60 m (197 ft). La Grande Arche in La Defense near Paris is 110 metres high. Although it is not named an Arc de Triomphe, it has been designed on the same model and in the perspective of the Arc de Triomphe. It qualifies as the world's tallest arch. [9]


Construction and late 19th century

A colourised aerial photograph of the southern side (published in 1921) Collier's 1921 Vol 4 Frontispiece -- Paris.jpg
A colourised aerial photograph of the southern side (published in 1921)

The Arc de Triomphe 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.

Francois Rude working on the Arc de Triomphe, 1893 painting by Joseph-Noel Sylvestre Sylvestre Rude sur Arc de Triomphe 1893.jpg
François Rude working on the Arc de Triomphe, 1893 painting by Joseph-Noël Sylvestre

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. [10] Prior to burial in the Panthéon, the body of Victor Hugo was displayed under the Arc during the night of 22 May 1885.

20th century

Charles Godefroy flying through the Arc de Triomphe in 1919 Godefroy flight.jpg
Charles Godefroy flying through the Arc de Triomphe in 1919
Arc de Triomphe, postcard, circa 1920 Paris. Arc de Triomphe. Postcard, c.1920.jpg
Arc de Triomphe, postcard, circa 1920
Arc de Triomphe, 1939 Paris 1939.jpg
Arc de Triomphe, 1939
Free French forces on parade after the liberation of Paris (1944) Crowds of French patriots line the Champs Elysees-edit2.jpg
Free French forces on parade after the liberation of Paris (1944)

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. [11] On 7 August 1919, Charles Godefroy successfully flew his biplane under the Arc. [12] 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 [13] 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.

In 1995, the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria placed a bomb near the Arc de Triomphe which wounded 17 people as part of a campaign of bombings. [14]

21st century

In late 2018, the Arc de Triomphe suffered acts of vandalism as part of the Yellow vests movement protests. [15] The vandals sprayed the monument with graffiti and ransacked its small museum. [16]



The Arc de Triomphe by Eugene Galien-Laloue Eugene Galien-Laloue Paris Arc de Triomphe 2.jpg
The Arc de Triomphe by Eugène Galien-Laloue
Avenues radiate from the Arc de Triomphe in Place Charles de Gaulle, the former Place de l'Etoile. ParisPlaceEtoile.jpg
Avenues radiate from the Arc de Triomphe in Place Charles de Gaulle, the former Place de l'Étoile.
The Arc de Triomphe is located on Paris's Axe historique, a long perspective that runs from the Louvre to the Grande Arche de la Defense. Avenue des Champs-Elysees 01.jpg
The Arc de Triomphe is located on Paris's Axe historique , a long perspective that runs from the Louvre to the Grande Arche de la Défense.

The astylar design is by Jean Chalgrin (1739–1811), in the Neoclassical version of ancient Roman architecture. 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 French victories in the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars. [17] The inside walls of the monument list the names of 660 people, among which are 558 French generals of the First French Empire; [18] The names of those generals killed in battle are underlined. Also inscribed, on the shorter sides of the four supporting columns, are the names of the major French victories in 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.

For four years from 1882 to 1886, a monumental sculpture by Alexandre Falguière topped the arch. Titled Le triomphe de la Révolution ("The Triumph of the Revolution"), it depicted a chariot drawn by horses preparing "to crush Anarchy and Despotism". It remained there only four years before falling in ruins.

Inside the monument, a permanent exhibition conceived by the artist Maurice Benayoun and the architect Christophe Girault opened in February 2007. [19] 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.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beneath the Arc de Triomphe Soldat inconnu 14 07 2006.jpg
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beneath the Arc de Triomphe
Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, with John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, under the Arc de Triomphe in 2015 Secretary Kerry, French Foreign Minister Fabius, Ambassador Hartley Pause After 70th Anniversary VE Day Wreath-Laying Ceremony in Paris (17421255431).jpg
Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, with John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, under the Arc de Triomphe in 2015

Beneath the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. Interred on Armistice Day 1920, [20] it has the first eternal flame lit in Western and Eastern Europe since the Vestal Virgins' fire was extinguished in the fourth century. It burns in memory of the dead who were never identified (now in both world wars).

A ceremony is held at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier every 11 November on the anniversary of the Armistice of 11 November 1918 signed by the Entente Powers and Germany in 1918. It was originally decided on 12 November 1919 to bury the unknown soldier's remains in the Panthéon, but a public letter-writing campaign led to the decision to bury him beneath the Arc de Triomphe. The coffin was put in the chapel on the first floor of the Arc on 10 November 1920, and put in its final resting place on 28 January 1921. The slab on top bears the inscription ICI REPOSE UN SOLDAT FRANÇAIS MORT POUR LA PATRIE 1914–1918 ("Here lies a French soldier who died for the fatherland 1914–1918").

In 1961, U.S. President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy paid their respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, accompanied by President Charles de Gaulle. After the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy, Mrs Kennedy remembered the eternal flame at the Arc de Triomphe and requested that an eternal flame be placed next to her husband's grave at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. President Charles de Gaulle went to Washington to attend the state funeral, and witnessed Jacqueline Kennedy lighting the eternal flame that had been inspired by her visit to France.


Batailles gravees sur atique ADT.jpg
Batailles gravees sous grandes arcades.jpg


The Arc de Triomphe during the World War I centenary celebrations on 11 November 2018 World War I centenary.jpg
The Arc de Triomphe during the World War I centenary celebrations on 11 November 2018

The Arc de Triomphe is accessible by the RER and Métro, with exit at the Charles de Gaulle—Étoile station. Because of heavy traffic on the roundabout of which the Arc is the centre, it is recommended that pedestrians use one of two underpasses located at the Champs Élysées and the Avenue de la Grande Armée. A lift will take visitors almost to the top – to the attic, where there is a small museum which contains large models of the Arc and tells its story from the time of its construction. Another 40 steps remain to climb in order to reach the top, the terrasse, from where one can enjoy a panoramic view of Paris. [22]

The location of the arc, as well as the Place de l'Étoile, is shared between three arrondissements, 16th (south and west), 17th (north), and 8th (east).

Paris seen from the top of the Arc de triomphe ArcTriompheParis.jpg
Paris seen from the top of the Arc de triomphe

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Axe historique</i>

The Axe historique is a line of monuments, buildings, and thoroughfares that extends from the centre of Paris, France, to the west. It is also known as the Voie Triomphale.

Champs-Élysées Avenue in Paris, France

The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is an avenue in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, France, 1.9 kilometres (1.2 mi) long and 70 metres (230 ft) wide, running between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle, where the Arc de Triomphe is located. It is known for its theatres, cafés, and luxury shops, for the annual Bastille Day military parade, and as the finish of the Tour de France cycle race.

Grande Arche monument and building in Pariss La Défense

La Grande Arche de la Défense, also called La Grande Arche de la Fraternité, is a monument and building in the business district of La Défense and in the commune of Puteaux, to the west of Paris, France. It is usually known as the Arche de la Défense or simply as La Grande Arche. A 110-metre-high (360 ft) cube, La Grande Arche is part of the perspective from the Louvre to Arc de Triomphe. The distance from La Grande Arche to Arc de Triomphe is 4 km.

La Défense is a major business district located three kilometres west of the city limits of Paris. It is part of the Paris metropolitan area in the Île-de-France region, located in the department of Hauts-de-Seine in the communes of Courbevoie, La Garenne-Colombes, Nanterre, and Puteaux.

François Rude The life of François Rude

François Rude was a French sculptor, best known for the Departure of the Volunteers, also known as La Marseillaise on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. (1835–36). His work often expressed patriotic themes, as well as the transition from neo-classicism to romanticism.

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel triumphal arch in Paris

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel is a triumphal arch in Paris, located in the Place du Carrousel. It is an example of Corinthian style architecture. It was built between 1806 and 1808 to commemorate Napoleon's military victories of the previous year. The Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, at the far end of the Champs Élysées, was designed in the same year; it is about twice the size and was not completed until 1836.

Antoine Étex French painter and sculptor

Antoine Étex was a French sculptor, painter and architect.

Avenue Foch Street in Paris, France

Avenue Foch is an avenue in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, France, named after World War I Marshal Ferdinand Foch in 1929. It is one of the most prestigious streets in Paris, and one of the most expensive addresses in the world, home to many grand palaces, including ones belonging to the Onassis and Rothschild families. The Rothschilds once owned numbers 19-21. The avenue runs from the Arc de Triomphe southwest to the Porte Dauphine at the edge of the Bois de Boulogne city park. It is the widest avenue in Paris and is lined with chestnut trees along its full length.

Jean Chalgrin French architect

Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin was a French architect, best known for his design for the Arc de Triomphe, Paris.

Saint-Augustin, Paris Church in arrondissement of Paris, France

The Église Saint-Augustin de Paris is a Catholic church located at 46 boulevard Malesherbes in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. The church was designed to provide a prominent vista at the end of the boulevard both of which were built during Haussmann's renovation of Paris under the Second French Empire. The closest métro station is Saint-Augustin

Porte dAix triumphal arch (national heritage monument of the 19th century) in Marseille, France

Porte d'Aix is a triumphal arch in Marseille, in the south of France, marking the old entry point to the city on the road from Aix-en-Provence. The classical design by Michel-Robert Penchaud was inspired by the triumphal arches of the Roman Empire. The Porte d’Aix was initially conceived in 1784 to honour Louis XIV and to commemorate the Peace of Paris (1783) that ended the American Revolutionary War. Following the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in 1814-15, the project was resumed in 1823, now to commemorate French victories in the Spanish Expedition, notably at the Battle of Trocadero, August 31, 1823. It was eventually completed in 1839, with a more general theme of victory.

Philippe Joseph Henri Lemaire French sculptor

Philippe Joseph Henri Lemaire was a French sculptor, working in a neoclassical academic style.

Avenue de Wagram avenue in Paris, France

Avenue de Wagram is a street in the 8th and 17th arrondissements of Paris, extending from the Place de Wagram to the Place Charles-de-Gaulle. It is 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) long and 36 metres (118 ft) wide, and is divided into two sections by the Place des Ternes. It was renamed on 2 March 1864 for Napoleon's 1809 victory at the Battle of Wagram; the section between Avenue des Ternes and the Place de l'Étoile was formerly known as Boulevard de l'Étoile or Boulevard de Bezons and the section between Avenue des Ternes and Place de Wagram, as Route départementale n°6.

Tourism in Paris

Tourism in Paris is a major income source. In 2018, 17.95 million international, overnighting tourists visited the city, mainly for sightseeing and shopping. Top sights include Notre Dame, Disneyland Paris (11), Sacre Cœur (10), the Versailles Palace (7.7), the Louvre Museum (6.9), the Eiffel Tower (5.9), Centre Pompidou (3.33), and the Musée d'Orsay. The largest numbers of foreign tourists who come to the Paris region are British, American, German, Italian, Chinese, and Canadian.

Jean-Marie Valhubert French commander

Jean-Marie Mellon Roger, better known as le général Valhubert, was born on October 22, 1764, at Avranches in Normandy, and died December 3, 1805 at Brünn. He was a French General during the French Revolution.

Jean-François-Théodore Gechter French artist

Jean-François-Théodore Gechter was a French sculptor. A student of François Joseph Bosio and baron Gros, he is now most noted for his bronzes. He first exhibited in 1824, in a show of classical and mythological subjects. From 1830 he shifted to smaller sculptures and animal subjects, like Antoine-Louis Barye, another student of Bosio and Gros. He also had a talent for historical scenes with figures in elaborate costumes.

Neoclassicism in France

Neoclassicism is a movement in architecture, design and the arts which was dominant in France between about 1760 to 1830. It emerged as a reaction to the frivolity and excessive ornament of the baroque and rococo styles. In architecture it featured sobriety, straight lines, and forms, such as the pediment and colonnade, based on Ancient Greek and Roman models. In painting it featured heroism and sacrifice in the time of the ancient Romans and Greeks. It began late in the reign of Louis XV, became dominant under Louis XVI, and continued through the French Revolution, the French Directory, and the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the Bourbon Restoration until 1830, when it was gradually replaced as the dominant style by romanticism and eclecticism.

<i>La Défense de Paris</i> Sculpture by Louis-Ernest Barrias

La Défense de Paris is a bronze statue by French sculpture Louis-Ernest Barrias. It commemorates the French dead from the Siege of Paris in 1870–71, during the Franco-Prussian War. The sculpture group was unveiled to the west of Paris on 12 October 1883, erected on an existing plinth that had previously supported a bronza sculpture of Napoleon by Charles Émile Seurre, alongside the crossroads between Courbevoie and Puteaux. The location became the La Défense roundabout, but the statue was later removed. The surrounding area was subsumed into Paris as the city expanded later in the 19th and in the 20th centuries; the area became known as La Défense after the statue. The statue was removed to a new location about 1965, and then moved several times before it was placed at its current location near the Arche de la Défense in 2017.


  1. Raymond, Gino (30 October 2008). Historical dictionary of France. Scarecrow Press. p. 9. ISBN   978-0-8108-5095-8 . Retrieved 28 July 2011.
  2. Fleischmann, Hector (1914). An unknown son of Napoleon. John Lane company. p.  204 . Retrieved 28 July 2011.
  3. "Arc de Triomphe". Lexico UK Dictionary. Oxford University Press . Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  4. "Arc de Triomphe". Collins English Dictionary . HarperCollins . Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  5. "arc de triomphe". Merriam-Webster Dictionary . Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  6. Melville Wallace, La vie d'un pilote de chasse en 1914–1918, Flammarion, Paris, 1978. The film clip is included in The History Channel's Four Years of Thunder.
  7. This film is thought still to be subject to copyright.
  8. Photograph of the first flight through the Arc
  9. "Arc de Triomphe facts". Paris Digest. 2018. Retrieved 6 September 2018.
  10. Hôtel des Invalides website Archived 25 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  11. "History of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris". Places in France. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  12. "Les débuts de l'aviation : Charles Godefroy – L'Histoire par l'image". Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  13. Image of Liberation of Paris parade Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  14. "Bomb Near Arc De Triomphe wounds 17". New York Times. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  15. Irish, John. "Macron mulls state of emergency after worst unrest in decades". Reuters. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  16. Katz, Brigit. "Arc de Triomphe to Reopen After Being Vandalized During 'Yellow Vest' Protests". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  17. The Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro is inscribed as a French victory, instead of the tactical draw that it actually was.
  18. Among the generals are at least two foreign generals, Venezuelan Francisco de Miranda and German born Nicolas Luckner.
  19. "Between War and Peace". Archived from the original on 16 December 2014. Retrieved 15 September 2014.
  20. Naour, Jean-Yves Le; Allen, Penny (16 August 2005). The Living Unknown Soldier: A Story of Grief and the Great War. Macmillan. p. 74. ISBN   978-0-8050-7937-1 . Retrieved 28 July 2011.
  21. Forrest. The Legacy of the French Revolutionary Wars. Cambridge University Press. p. 38. ISBN   1139489240.
  22. "Offer to everyone the best view on Paris". Centre des Monuments Nationaux. Retrieved 18 July 2019.