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Arc de Triomphe

Construction on the Arc de Triomphe was begun in 1806 to commemorate Napoleon Bonaparte's victories throughout Europe, but as he began to lose battles the project was shelved and not completed until 1836 by King Louis-Philippe. The ostentatious monument is now at the center of the world's largest traffic roundabout and marks the start of the Champs-Elysées. Today it is one of Paris' most famous tourist attractions and millions of visitors climb the long stairway to the top every year. The Arc de Triomphe stands at 51m (167 ft) high and 45m (148 ft) wide. The monument is so large that a daredevil pilot once flew his plane between the arches.

Cortot's The Triumph of Napoleon
Rude's The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792
(or "La Marseillaise")

There are four very large relief sculptures at the bases of each of the four pillars of the Arc de Triomphe. The two facing the Champs-Elysées are more famous and are photographed above. The left base's sculpture is called, "The Triumph of Napoleon" and is a tribute to Bonaparte's many military victories. The spirit of Victory crowns Napoleon with a laurel wreath while multitudes, symbolized by several bowing and prostrate individuals, subject themselves to his rule. History writes the names of the battles he has won on a stone tablet and Fame blows a trumpet.

The second is called "The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792" depicts the French people rallying against an enemy from a foreign nation. Those figures are inspired by the Republic, personified by a . This piece aroused a great deal of patriotism of its own among the Parisians that it earned its nickname of "La Marseillaise", the same name as the French national anthem, written in 1792.

The day that the Battle of Verdun started in 1916, the sword of the Republic broke off. The entire relief was immediately hidden by large tarps to conceal the accident and avoid any citizens becoming unsettled by the auspicious omen.

Above "La Marseillaise" and "The Triumph of Napoleon" are bas relief works in rectangular frames. The one above depicts the funeral of Marceau.
The one opposite, on the left, again vis-à-vis the Champs-Elysées,
is called the Battle of Aboukir.

Just above the archway are two angels blowing on trumpets

A narrow band of relief crowns the top of the Arc. Bands of soldiers on foot, on horseback, musicians drumming or trumpeting the soldiers into battle, and all of them led by their brave generals. Remarkably carved and intricate, it is so high on the monument it is not easily admired by the casual tourist.

Underneath the Arc, the carvings are equally as impressive.

On the inside walls and on the legs facing out are the names of battles won during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods as well as the names of the generals of those battles. Those who died in battle are underlined.

One of the reliefs on the underside of the arch

Housed at the Arc, is the French tomb of an unknown soldier and the eternal
flame dedicated to all fallen soldiers from World War I and World War II.

The long climb up 284 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe is well worth it. At the top of the stairs is a small museum that tells the story of the Arc's construction. Take a look at the displays before making your way to the exit leading to the top platform.

From the platform you have a full panoramic view of area and the 12 large avenues which radiate from traffic roundabout.

A partial panoramic view on top of the Arc de Triomphe

A view of the financial district

And the most famous landmark around

Above are two photos of the tunnel that you must go through to reach the Arc de Triomphe. The Arc is not nearly as crowded as the Eiffel Tower and is just as rewarding. Don't miss out on it just because it is not located in the center of Paris with many other tourist attractions. Visit the Arc and take a stroll down the Champs-Elysées.


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