When it comes to iconic landmarks and attractions, there isn’t a city in the world that can match Paris – or so they say. With the French capital being home to an amazing array of monumental sites such as the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and many others, the history of France is written into the architecture of this great city. If you want to learn the full story then there’s only one place to start; the Arc de Triomphe. Watch our full report below:
Here are some extra facts:
Before it was the Arc de Triomphe, the space was almost dedicated to a giant elephant.
Pre-Napoleon, French architect Charles Ribart proposed a three-level, elephant-shaped building that would be entered via a spiral staircase that led up into the elephant’s gut. The furniture would fold into the walls and there would be a drainage system in the elephant’s trunk. Ribart was all set to start building, but the French government ended up denying his request to erect the giant pachyderm. Go figure.
New symbols incorporated after the First World War
As centuries went by, the Arc de Triomphe was given more historical meanings, through various symbolic actions. In 1921, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has been added to the site of the Arc, in which lies the body of a World War I French soldier.
Two years later, an eternal flame was lit at the same spot, as a symbolic gesture to mourn and remember the soldiers who died on the battlefield, to free their country. This flame is rekindled through a small ceremony every day at 6:30 pm, by various non-profit associations.
The inside walls and the names of famous French soldiers
The inside walls of the Arc de Triomphe feature the names of 660 people, mostly the French generals of Napoleon.
The names of those killed in battle are underlined.
The shorter sides of the four supporting columns contain the names of the major victorious battles of the Napoleonic Wars.
The battle of Waterloo does not appear there as they do not include the battles which took place after the departure of Napoleon from Elba (1815).
The Four Pillars Showcase Four Separate Sculptor Groups
If you go and observe the Arc up close, you’ll notice that each of the four pillars showcase individual sculptural works.
The first is dedicated to Le Départ de 1792 and was designed by by François Rude. This sculptor honors the French First Republic during the uprising that took place on the 10th of August.
The second is Le Triomphe de 1810 and was designed by Jean-Pierre Cortot. This commemorates the Treaty of Schönbrunn and features Napoleon being crowned in victory.
The third pillar showcases the Résistance de 1814 and was designed by Antoine Étex. It commemorates French resistance during the War of the Sixth Coalition.
Lastly, the fourth pillar represents the Paix de 1815, also designed by Antoine Étex. This one is commemoration of the Treaty of Paris.
A Wooden Replica of the Arc de Triomphe Was Made for Napoleon
Napoleon was not in power when the Arc de Triomphe saw completion. But in 1810 when he was getting married to his wife Marie-Louise, Napoleon had a smaller wooden replica of the Arc constructed, under which he and his wife tied the knot.
Two Assassination Attempts Have Taken Place at the Arc de Triomphe
Monsieur Charles De Gaulle, after whom the Paris airport is named, narrowly missed an assassination attempt on his life at the Arc de Triomphe. He famously survived over thirty of these attempts on his life during his time in the French capital.
Not long ago, in 2002, Jacques Chirac also narrowly beat an attempt to take his life at the same location. He was addressing troops during Bastille Day celebrations from an open top Jeep when a bullet was sent his way.
The Pillars Showcase The Works Of Various Sculptor Groups
Did you know that they were not the work of one designer? They were actually designed by three people and made by multiple sculptor groups.
The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792/ Le Départ de 1792, or La Marseillaise, was designed by François Rude.
Meanwhile, the Triumph of 1810/ Le Triomphe de 1810 was the work of Jean-Pierre Cortot. Lastly, Resistance/ La Résistance de 1814 and Peace / La Paix de 1815 were both designed by Antoine Étex.
The Sun Sets In The Center Of The Arch Twice A Year
If you time your visit to the Arc de Triomphe perfectly, you may be able to witness a breathtaking sight.
Twice a year, the sun sets in the exact center of the arch. This wonderful phenomenon usually occurs between May and August; however, the exact date may vary.
To admire it in its full glory, just extend to the Eastern end of the Champs-Élysées.
Cleaning it isn’t easy
Giving the landmark a full-scale cleaning is no easy task. When it last received a full-scale cleaning was in 2011; it was its first in almost 50 years.