A triumphal History of the Love City – Arc de Triomphe

By Kim Sarah C. Manso (2010-18793)

Standing majestically at the center of the most famous avenue in Paris called Place Charles de Gaulle, is one of the well-known and adorned historical structures in the world – Arc de Triomphe. Aside from its picturesque view from a far, it connects four main roads of breath taking routes to other historical sites around Paris.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe, which was inspired by the Arch of Titus of the Roman period, was built by the order of Napoleon I in 1806 for the purpose of celebrating the victories of the emperor and the Grand Armee (The French army). The triumphal arch’s architects were Jean-Francois-Therese Chalgrin and Jean-Arnaud Raymond, but there were other prominent architects as well who gave ideas and opinions about the famous arc. Between the years 1814 and 1826, the arch’s construction was stopped because of Napoleon’s defeat. But it was eventually continued by King Louis-Philippe I dedicating it to the French armed forces. The arch’s plans were revised and changed just as with its architects. Hence, it took more than 30 years before it was finished in the year 1836.

The design and style of Arc de Triomphe is of late 18th-century romantic neoclassicism. The grand arch stands 50 meters high and has a width of 22 meters, which is approximately 25 stacked up jeepneys high and 7 lined jeepneys in width. It has four pillars each with big sculptures in each of its bases namely the most famous, La Marseillaise (the departure of volunteers) in 1792 by François Rude, Napoléon’s Triumph of 1810 by Cortot, and Resistance of 1814 and Peace of 1815 by Etex.  At the top of the arch, there’s an attic that has a sculptured frieze of 30 shields that were carved with the name of their selected major revolutionary victories.

There are many names written and carved inside the monument. Some of them are the 558 names of French generals written inside the walls of the monument, where the underlined names were those who died in the battles. Another is the 128 battles of the Napoleon Empire and first French Republic, which are carved on the four supporting column sides.

The tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Eternal Flame

But not only are these friezes, sculptures, and inscriptions are seen in the Arc de Triomphe, there is also a tomb buried beneath it known as the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.”  It is about the French Soldier who died during the World War I and was buried beneath the arch on November 11, 1921. Originally, the Unknown Soldier was supposed to be buried in Pantheon however due to a campaign the burial was set in the arch instead. The idea of it was taken from the “Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey” in the United Kingdom. It has the first Memorial flame or Eternal flame in the western world, an idea of the journalist and poet Gabriel Boissy that was lightened up after two years of his burial. From that day up to now, the fire was never been extinguished. This daily ritual of lighting the Memorial flame every day at 6:30pm is done by the association of La Flamme sous’ I Arc de Triomphe. A slab above the tomb of the Unknown Soldier has an inscription of “Here lies a French soldier who died for his fatherland 1914-1918.”

Year 1961, President John F. Kennedy and his wife were escorted by President Charles de Gaulle of France to see the tomb of the Unknown Soldier to pay reverence. When John F. Kennnedy was assassinated in 1963, his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy was inspired by the eternal flame of the said tomb and requested to put one on her husband’s grave as well.

         

Arc de triomphe and the Etoile roundabout

Arc de Triomphe is at the center of Etoile, which is a big roundabout designed by Baron Haussman. Today, the Arch is always a center of busy traffic and accidents because of the very huge roundabout encircling it that seems to be way scarier than Quezon Memorial Circle of the Philippines. Getting to the monument by crossing the road is obviously impossible and dangerous, actually even deadly. Good thing, there is a different way to access the arch. There’s an underground tunnel leading toward the arc located at the side of the circle in Avenue de la Grand Armee, which would be a much safer way.

From the day it was built up to this day, Arc de Triomphe remains to be a symbol of victory. Together with its magnificent features and historical commemorations, the arch is duly respected and looked up to. More importantly, the arch does not get all the attention for itself alone rather it shows the rest of Paris’ historical and important sites through the arch’s viewing platform.

Because of Arc de Triomphe, Paris is not only known as the city of love alone but is also a city of a triumphal history. Arc de Triomphe never fails to be a glorious entrance for the rest of the city making it the best triumphal arch in the world.

Sources:

http://www.arcdetriompheparis.com/ (for the 3rd photo and history)

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b8/Arc_de_triomphe_frontsimple.jpg (first photo)

http://www.travlang.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/arc-de-triomphe_11.jpg (2nd photo)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kennedy_Eternal_Flame#cite_note-Bugliosi502-11 (John F. Kennedy)

http://www.philippinesinsider.com/transport/makati-transportation/ (jeepney)

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