The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is one of the most famous monuments in Paris, standing at the western end of the Champs-Élysées at the center 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 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. 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.
The Unknown Soldier
On 11 November 1920, in the course of the same ceremony, the heart of Léon Gambetta was laid to rest in the Pantheon to mark the 50th anniversary of the Third Republic, and the Unknown Soldier was solemnly carried to the Arc de Triomphe. The Unknown Soldier was buried beneath the Arch in 1921 and decorated with the Légion d’Honneur in the presence of the British Prime Minister, Marshals and the entire French government. The flame of remembrance was lit on 11 November 1923 by André Maginot, the war minister, and has never gone out since. It is rekindled every day at 6.30 pm by one of France’s 900 veterans associations.
François Rude, Jean-Pierre Cortot and Antoine Etex sculpted the monumental sculptural groups that adorn the arch’s four pillars.The allegoric sculptures on the Arc de Triomphe represent Emperor Napoleon’s heroic and military exploits as well as symbolic scenes. François Rude sculpted La Marseillaise. This sculpture, also known as Le départ de 1792, represents the revolutionary volunteers from the city of Marseille marching on Paris. The Marseillaise was a revolutionary song, an anthem to freedom, a patriotic call to mobilize all the citizens and an exhortation to fight against tyranny and foreign invasion. The French National Convention adopted it as the Republic’s anthem in 1795. It acquired its nickname after being sung in Paris by volunteers from Marseille marching to the capital.
The Battle of the Nile (also known as the Battle of Aboukir) was a major naval battle fought between the British Royal Navy and the Navy of the French Republic at Aboukir Bay on the Mediterranean coast off the Nile Delta of Egypt in 1798. The battle was the climax of a naval campaign that had ranged across the Mediterranean during the previous three months, as a large French convoy sailed from Toulon to Alexandria carrying an expeditionary force under General Napoleon Bonaparte. The British fleet was led in the battle by Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson; they decisively defeated the French under Vice-Admiral François-Paul Brueys d’Aigalliers.
François Séverin Marceau-Desgraviers (1769-1796) was a French general of the Revolutionary Wars. After Jourdan and Jean Victor Marie Moreau’s Rhine Campaign of 1796 ended in defeat, Marceau’s men covered Jourdan’s retreat over the Rhine. Marceau fought in the desperate Battle of Limburg on the Lahn River (16–19 September 1796). While conducting a successful rear guard action near Altenkirchen on 19 September, he received a mortal wound. He died early the next morning, aged only twenty-seven. Marceau was immortalized in Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”
The Interior of the Arc de Triomphe
The great arcades are decorated with allegorical figures representing characters in Roman mythology. The ceiling of the interior has 21 sculpted roses.
There are lists of the names of 660 persons inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris. Most of them are generals who served during the First French Empire (1804–1814) with additional figures from the French Revolution (1789–1799). Underlined names signify those killed in action. A good example is Jean-Baptiste Kléber who joined the expedition to Egypt under Bonaparte, but suffered a wound in the head at Alexandria in the first engagement, which prevented his taking any further part in the campaign of the Pyramids, and caused his appointment as governor of Alexandria. In the Syrian campaign of 1799, however, he commanded the vanguard, took El-Arish, Gaza and Jaffa, and won the great victory of Mount Tabor on in April 1799. When Napoleon returned to France towards the end of 1799, he left Kléber in command of the French forces. Seeing no hope of bringing his army back to France or of consolidating his conquests, he negotiated the convention of El-Arish with Commodore Sidney Smith, winning the right to an honorable evacuation of the French army. When Admiral Lord Keith refused to ratify the terms, Kléber attacked the Turks at the famous Battle of Heliopolis. Although he had only 10,000 men against 60,000 Turks, Kléber’s forces utterly defeated the Turks. He was assassinated in Cairo on June 14, 1800, by a Kurdish Syrian student. Funny how history repeats itself.
View from the Top
Since the Arc de Triomphe is in the middle of some of the heaviest traffic in Paris, you get there through an underground tunnel. An elevator takes you to the top where you will see some of the most spectacular views of Paris. 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.
Historical Axis of Paris
The Arc de Triomphe sits at the top of the small hill Chaillot. From the ground level, one can look down the Avenue des Champs-Elysées and see the gold-tipped Obelisk of Luxor, marking the Place de la Concorde. Further on is the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and the Louvre Palace. If you look carefully at the photos above of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, you can see the Egyptian Obelisk and the Arc de Triomphe perfectly aligned in the center of the arch.
Looking in the opposite direction, west, down the Avenue de la Grande Armée, one can see the Grande Arche de La Défense. The Axe historique (historical axis) 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 (“triumphal way”).
Église Saint-Augustin de Paris
The Église Saint-Augustin de Paris (Church of St. Augustine) 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. During the reign of Napoleon III in the 1850s and 60s Paris experienced a dramatic transformation under the direction of Georges-Eugène Haussmann. Haussmann cut many boulevards through the crowded, medieval city placing prominent public buildings at the boulevard ends to provide impressive vistas. The boulevard Malesherbes was laid out cutting northwest from La Madeleine. Saint-Augustin, close to the spot where Haussmann was born, was built to provide a counterpoint to the famous columns of La Madeleine at the other end of the boulevard. It was also designed to be visible from the Arc de Triomphe down the avenue de Friedland.
After climbing 284 steps to reach the top of the monument, you’ll be greeted by one of the most spectacular views of the Eiffel Tower—for a second or two, it looks like the tower is floating on top of the Parisian rooftops. From here, you can also see down the Champs-Élysées and all the way to La Défense, a major business district in Paris.
In 1871, Montmartre was the site of beginning of the revolutionary uprising of the Paris Commune. During the Franco-Prussian War, the French army had stored a large number of cannon in a park at the top of the hill, near where the Basilica is today. On March 18, 1871, the soldiers from the French Army tried to remove the cannon from the hilltop. They were blocked by members of the politically-radicalised Paris National Guard, who captured and then killed two French army generals, and installed a revolutionary government that lasted two months. The heights of Montmartre were retaken by the French Army with heavy fighting at the end of May 1871, during what became known as “Bloody Week”.
Tour Montparnasse, is a 210-metre (689 ft) office skyscraper located in the Montparnasse area of Paris, France. Constructed from 1969 to 1973, it was the tallest skyscraper in France until 2011, when it was surpassed by the 231 m (758 ft) Tour First. As of February 2015, it is the 17th tallest building in the European Union. I hope you enjoyed the post, please leave a comment.
History of the Arc de Triomphe: http://www.frenchempire.net/monuments/
Funeral of General Merceau: http://www.antique-prints.de/shop/catalog.php?cat=KAT113&lang=ENG&product=P006207
Names on the Arc de Triomphe: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_inscribed_under_the_Arc_de_Triomphe
Tour Montparnasse: /tour-montparnasse-views-of-paris/
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