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History Of The Arc De Triomphe

Updated on October 12, 2011

Arc De Triomph Paris Photos


Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile

Here is some history on the most famous arch in the world, The Arc de Triomphe located in Paris, France.

This most monumental of all triumphal arches was constructed between 1806 and 1836. Although its original plans underwent a certain number of modifications reflecting political changes and power struggles, the Arch still retains the essence of its original concept as a powerful, unified ensemble.

Its entire decorative cycle belongs to the high tradition of sculpture of the first half of the nineteenth century.

Groups, figures, friezes, and bas-reliefs are signature works by Jean-Pierre Cortot, Antoine Etex, and James Pradier. But, incontestably, the most celebrated sculpture is that by Francois Rude : La Marseillaise. With its Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Memorial Flame, the Arch has become a revered patriotic site. The structure also represents universally a symbolic image of Paris itself.

Napoleon I nurtured an ambition to transform the capital of his empire into the most beautiful city in the world. On 17 February 1806, plans for a “column dedicated to the glory of the Grande Armee” (presently the Place Vendome column) were confirmed definitively.

On February, an Imperial decree approved the completion of the Pantheon and the “erection of a triumphal arch at the entry to the boulevard near the site of the former Bastille prison, in such a way that, upon entering the Saint-Antoine district, one passed through this triumphal arch.”

During the following days, decisions were taken to construct the Iena Bridge, the Stock Exchange, and the Carousel Triumphal Arch at the Tuileries Palace. The choice of Place de la Bastille for the arch appeared compelling.

Firstly, it gave a monumental eastern entrance into Paris.Secondly, on the very same historic site where the former monarchy had been symbolically abolished, it served as the inception of a grand Avenue which Napoleon dreamed of piercing through to the east colonnade of the Louvre. Lastly, the proposed arch permitted, in an implicit manner, the stifling of Revolutionary memories.

In March, architect Jean-Francois-Therese Chalgrin (1739-1811) was hired to study the best possible site for the arch. He took note of inconveniences at the Bastille: the public space did not have a precise form; the adjoining public roads were irregular; and the proposed east-west axis contravened the existing northern boulevard (presently Boulevard Richard Lenoir) which, due to its width, tended to impose its existing orientation onto the site.

On the contrary, Place de la Concorde (formerly Place Louis V) offered, among other advantages, an already established, graded layout which permitted easy accommodation of a new monument. On 9 May, Napoleon finally accepted an alternative site: Place de l’Etoile.

The Unknown Soldier


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    • festersporling1 profile image

      Daniel Christian 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thanks Peggy. Glad you enjoyed.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Interesting history regarding the Arch De Triomphe and you are correct in that it is an iconic site that people around the world associate with Paris. Voted up and interesting.