L’ Arc de Triomphe is one of the symbols of Paris. But did you know that it was Napoleon who decided on its construction ?
To celebrate the Battle of Austerlitz
Built to bear witness to the victories of the French armies, L’ Arc de Triomphe is today both one of the symbols of Paris and the guardian of the memory of soldiers who died in war. Built from 1806 to 1836 on the initiative of Napoleon I to celebrate the Battle of Austerlitz, the Arc de Triomphe dominates the historic Parisian axis (or royal road) which connects La Défense to the Louvre in a straight line via the Place de la Concorde and the famous Champs Élysées. Originally Napoleon wanted to have it built on the Place de la Bastille, but his ministers dissuaded him: the bloody link between the Bastille and the French Revolution was still too fresh and sensitive in the hearts of the population. It could have tarnished the image of the Emperor. The place of the star is therefore chosen for its interesting perspective. Napoleon called on the architects Chalgrin and Raymond, but their two visions for the project were not compatible. Only the first one ends up actually working on the project.
Inaugurated in 1836
In 1810, the site was launched but the progress was not fast enough for the taste of the leaders. On the occasion of the wedding of Archduchess Marie-Louise, Napoleon 1st decided to have a wooden and canvas model reproduced in real size to hide the delay. And even worse, in 1812, after Napoleon’s heavy defeat in Russia, the project was simply abandoned. It will be necessary to wait until 1832 and Louis-Philippe 1st so that the site of the Arc de Triomphe comes back to life. And it was in July 1836 that the building was inaugurated. With its fifty meters in height, it is the largest arch in the world ; its architecture is inspired by the classical monuments of Rome. You have to climb 284 steps to reach a panoramic terrace which offers a 360° view of Paris.
A museum in the Arch
Less well known, the arch houses a museum where items are exhibited (photos, documents, models, drawings, etc.) testifying to the highlights of its history : its construction, Victor Hugo’s funeral wake on May 31, 1885, the parade of the victory of July 14, 1919, or the arrival of the corps of the Unknown Soldier on January 28, 1921, for example. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is under the main arch. The flame lit on November 11, 1923 by the Minister of War at the time, André Maginot, to perpetuate the memory of the soldiers who died for France has never been extinguished. Since then, a public reviving ceremony has taken place every evening at 6:30 p.m. under the Arc de Triomphe. Today, the Arc de Triomphe in Paris has been listed as a historic monument since 1896 and the monument is managed by the Center des Monuments Nationaux.