Arc de Triomphe

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Arc de Triomphe is one of the most representative monuments of Paris as well as the most illustrious symbol of French national history. It is situated at the west end of Champs-Elysées, in the centre of Place de l’Étoile (that was extensively redesigned in 1860s by Baron Haussmann, who increased the number of avenues to twelve). Today the Arc offers museum linked to the history of the monument, as well as panoramatic view from the roof. Looking eastwards, down the Champs Elysées, toward the Louvre, there is the Place de la Concorde, the Tuileries Gardens, and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. Looking the opposite direction - westwards - in the distance is its larger and newer cousin, La Grande Arche de la Défense.

The construction of the monument began in 1806 on the orders of Napoleon Bonaparte in honour of the French army shortly after his victory at Austerlitz. It was finished just thirty years later, on 30th July 1836 under the reign of Louis Philippe.

The arc is 51 metres high and 45 metres wide and it is the second largest Victory Arc in the world (The larger one is in North Korea).

The astylar design was made by Jean Chalgrin and it is the neoclassical version of Roman architecture. He was taking care of architecture from the beginning to 1811, when he died and was replaced by Joust. After 1814 the construction was stopped and finished just during the years 1833 – 1836 with Blouet being its third and last architect. Besides architects, there were major academic sculptors of France cooperating on the project: Cortot, Rude, Étex, Pradier and Lemaire. There are four main sculptural groups at the base of the Arc. There are: “The Triumph of 1811” (made by Jean-Piere Cortot), “Resistance” and “Peace” (both by Antoine Étex) and “Departure of the Volunteers of ’92”, called also “La Marseillaise” (by Francois Rude).

On the inside walls there are 558 names of French generals listed. Some of them are underlined – those soldiers died in the battle. There is also richly sculptured frieze of soldiers and in the attic above them are 30 shields engraved with the names of famous victories during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods.

The Tomb of Unknown Soldier from the World War I is situated beneath the Arc and eternal flame commemorates the dead who were never identified from both world wars.

The famous victory marches past the Arc included the Germans in 1871 and also in 1940, then the French in 1918 and the French together with Allies in 1944 and 1945.
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