The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Emperor Napoleon in 1806. Emperor Napoleon was inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus. The Arc was built in honor of French soldiers who died in the Napoleonic Wars and the French Revolution Wars. Architect Jean Chalgrin designed the Arc and construction began in 1806. In 1811, the Bourbon Restoration resulted in an interruption to the construction of the Arc de Triomphe. The Arc's construction did not come to an end until 1836. The Arc has iconic sculptures on the pillars which were made by a group of French sculptors. The Arc de Triomphe is 49.5 meters tall, 45 meters wide, and 22 meters deep. The large vault is 29.19 meters high and 14.62 meters wide while the small vault is 18.63 meters high and 8.44 meters wide. It was the world’s tallest triumphal arch until 1938 when Monumento a la Revolución was built in Mexico.
The Arc is a masterpiece created by French architects and sculptors. It was designed in the neoclassical style of medieval Roman architecture. The monument was a prime parading ground for French soldiers after successful campaigns. It is covered with inscriptions of the names of all the French soldiers who fought in the 19th century and the wars fought by France. Arc de Triomphe houses the tomb of the Unknown Soldier underneath the surface. An eternal flame burns at the tomb in honor of all the unidentified French soldiers who died in the First and Second World Wars.
Crowned as the most iconic monument in France, the Arc de Triomphe is a favorite location for local and international tourists. The Arc chronicles the military history of France in a deep and evocative way. Its delicate art and detailed engravings offer a beautiful sight to visitors. Some of the famous visitors to the Arc were US President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline Kennedy who visited in 1961. The Arc de Triomphe is also the site for important national celebrations in France including Bastille Day celebration held on the 14th of July.
On November 11th, 1923, Andre Maginot, the then Minister of War in France, lit the eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The event was attended by former combatants and government officials. On August 7th, 1919, the famous military pilot Charles Godefroy flew through the arch in his plane. In 1871 and 1940, Germans performed their victory matches at the Arc. After the end of the Second World War, American troops marched past the Arc de Triomphe to celebrate their victory.
Threats to the Arc de Triomphe
Exhaust fumes released by vehicles threaten the beauty of the Arc. Due to the arc’s central location, numerous vehicles pass through daily. Fumes from the cars discolor the Arc. In 1960, the Arc had to be cleaned by bleaching because it had blackened from the exhaust fumes.