The Victors’ Insignia

If you are planning to take an expedition outside the country, you would probably consider Paris as one of your choices. Paris is the home of splendid spots like the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sacre Coeur Basilica. And mentioning Paris, the first thing that comes in to your mind is the Eiffel Tower which is a world widely prominent spot with almost five million tourists who come and visit this supremely remarkable structure. As an icon of Paris, it has earned its great nobility and I’m sure no one would let the day pass without experiencing the tower’s top. But Eiffel Tower is not the one and only construction where you could feel such unforgettable happiness as viewing a glimpse of Paris. A structure as magnificent as the tower stands at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle in the city of lights, the Arc de Triomphe. It is the most monumental arch which rises as an emblem of victory.

I see myself, few years from now, standing beside this arch, observing every bit of its majestic details and sensing its historical value as if I lived during the days of Napoleon’s victories. My imagination takes me to a more interesting travel and this serves as my inspiration in achieving my countless dreams. I wonder how the creators of this arch were able to build such gigantic art with so many features. If I were one of those soldiers who fought in the name of France, maybe I will feel so grateful for this emblem was done with every drop of blood and sweat. I believe that this honourable army deserves the best. And throughout these years, it will be my turn to have one of my lifetime’s treasures.

In the middle of Place Charles de Gaulle in Champ Elysees stands one of the greatest and historical arches on Earth, the Arc de Triomphe or also known as Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile. Surrounded by the twelve radiating avenues of Etoile, this monumental structure is the linchpin of L’Axehistorique which extends from the Palace of Louvre to the periphery of Paris. The sequence of colossal structures is consisting of the Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, the Arch de Triomphe du Carrousel and the Grande Arche. The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel is the minuscule form of the Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile and the Grande Arche is the latest arch that completed the historic axis.

The Arc de Triomphe was started during Emperor Napoleon’s supremacy in 1806 after their victory at Austerlitz. He commissioned Jean Chalgrin, a French architect who has been involved in instigating romantic classicism in the 18th century, to construct the design. This megalomaniac grandeur was inspired by the Triumphal Arch of Titus, a marble arch, in a Neoclassical interpretation of the Roman architecture. After Chalgrin’s demise in 1811, the work was taken over by Jean Nicolas Huyot from then, until 1814. The construction of the arch was haltered with the abdication of Napoleon and resumed after nineteen years. The triumphal arch was finally completed during King Louise Philippe’s reign in 1836 by the architects Goust and Huyot.

The creation of the Arc de Triomphe honours the valiant army who struggled and dedicated their lives for France throughout French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.In their commemoration, inscriptions of names of 558 generals were engraved in its inner and outer surfaces, including the battles of the emperor and his thriving army. Also, six reliefs, which imply important moments of the Napoleonic Era and the French Revolution, were carved on the facades of the arch.

Great academic sculptors were as well commissioned by Emperor Napoleon to execute the reliefs on the facades. To name few of these reliefs are the Triumph of 1810 by Cortot and the most celebrated of them all, the Departure of the Volunteers of 1792 or La Merseillaise by Rude. The sword in La Merseillaise was wrecked during the battle of Verdun and so it was immediately shielded with tarpaulins to prevent such accidents. The six sculptures are not mere representations of their victorious battles, but are treated as trophies.

A tomb of an unknown soldier from the World War I lies underneath the vault. Two years subsequent to the interment of the Unknown Soldier, Gabriel Boissy, a journalist and poet, initiated the idea of lighting an eternal flame in memory of the dead. It was the first eternal flame in the Eastern and Western Europe after the extinguishing of the Vestal Virgin’s fire in the 4th century. It is where the former first lady of the United States of America, Jacqueline Kennedy, took the notion of placing this kind of flame next to her husband’s grave. This said flame was once extinguished by a drunken Mexican football fan during the defeat of Brazil in the 1998 FIFA World Cup, according to a television program in 2008.

History is embedded in its name. It became a factor of extraordinary events, not only of Paris, but of France. Aside from being the emblem of victory, it was once declared as the largest triumphal arch in the world until 1892, after the construction of the Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang. As a matter of fact, it has a very large vault with a height of approximately 50 meters and a width of 45 meters. The stupendous characteristics of it gave the French aviator, Charles Godefroy, an idea of flying through its vault and it was made possible in 1919 weeks after the Paris Victory Parade with Godefroy’s Nieuport biplane. This event was executed to mark the end of the World War 1.And being the rallying spot of the French troops, it was where they parade and celebrate after their prosperous encounters. Also, funeral processions of well-known political personalities had occurred in the arch. Emperor Napoleon’s body was passed under it before proceeding to his final resting place. Victor Hugo’s remains was exposed under the arch and brought it to Pantheon. All of these are just a little of those several events of the monumental arch and these are few of the proofs that the Arc de Triomphe has provided framework for countless patriotic festivities.