The Arc de Triomphe (Arc de Triomphe de lEtoile) is one of the most famous monuments in Paris
. It stands in the Centre
of the Place Charles de Gaulle
(originally named Place de lEtoile), at the western end of the Champs-Elysees. There is a smaller arch, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel
, which stands west of the Louvre.
The Arc de Triomphe (in English: "Triumphal Arch") honours those who fought and died for France
in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World
The Arc de Triomphe is the linchpin of the historic axis (Axe historique) – a sequence of monuments and grand thoroughfares on a route which goes from the courtyard of the Louvre, to the Grande Arche
de la Défense. The monument was designed by Jean Chalgrin in 1806, and its iconographic program pitted heroically nude French youths against bearded Germanic warriors in chain mail. It set the tone for public monuments, with triumphant patriotic messages.
The monument stands 50 metres (164 ft) in height, 45 m (148 ft) wide and 22 m (72 ft) deep. The large vault is 29.19 m (95.8 ft) high and 14.62 m (48.0 ft) wide. The small vault is 18.68 m (61.3 ft) high and 8.44 m (27.7 ft) wide. It was the largest triumphal arch in existence until the construction of the Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang, in 1982.
Its design was inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus. The Arc de Triomphe is so colossal that three weeks after the Paris victory parade in 1919, (marking the end of hostilities in World War I), Charles Godefroy flew his Nieuport biplane through it, with the event captured on newsreel.
The astylar design is by Jean Chalgrin (1739–1811), in the Neoclassical version of ancient Roman architecture (see, for example, the triumphal Arch of Titus). Major academic sculptors of France are represented in the sculpture of the Arc de Triomphe: Jean-Pierre Cortot; François Rude; Antoine Étex; James Pradier and Philippe Joseph Henri Lemaire. The main sculptures are not integral friezes but are treated as independent trophies applied to the vast ashlar masonry masses, not unlike the gilt-bronze appliqués on Empire furniture.
In the attic above the richly sculptured frieze of soldiers are 30 shields engraved with the names of major Revolutionary and Napoleonic military victories.The inside walls of the monument list the names of 660 people, among which are 558 French generals of the First French Empire; the names of those who died in battle are underlined.
Also inscribed, on the shorter sides of the four supporting columns, are the names of the major victorious battles of the Napoleonic Wars. The battles that took place in the period between the departure of Napoleon from Elba
to his final defeat at Waterloo are not included.
Inside the monument, a new permanent exhibition conceived by the artist Maurice Benayoun and the architect Christophe Girault opened in February 2007.The steel and new media installation interrogates the symbolism of the National
monument, questioning the balance of its symbolic message during the last two centuries, oscillating between war and peace.
The Arc de Triomphe is accessible by the RER and Métro, with exit at the Charles de Gaulle—Étoile station.Because of heavy traffic on the roundabout of which the Arc is the centre, it is recommended that pedestrians use one of two underpasses located at the Champs Élysées and the Avenue de la Grande Armée.
A lift will take visitors almost to the top – to the attic, where there is a small museum which contains large models of the Arc and tells its story from the time of its construction. 46 steps remain to climb in order to reach the top, the terrasse, from where one can enjoy a panoramic view of Paris.