Arc de Triomphe in Paris


The Arc de triomphe de l'Étoile, like the Eiffel Tower, is the hallmark of Paris, all tourists have heard the history of the attraction at least once. Both the history and architecture of this monument deserve special attention.

History of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris

The design of the Champs Elysees, Charles de Gaulle square dates back to 1667. The area was designed by the gardener André Le Nôtre for King Louis XIV. The landscaping ideas were borrowed from the regular garden of the Palais Saint-Germain.

Champs Elysees and Tuileries Gardens (1667)

The Tuileries Gardens (then the Gardens of the Great Courtyard) used to extend as far as what is now Charles de Gaulle Square. Only in 1709, the lower part of the gardens was called the Champs Elysees. And almost half a century later, in 1758, an offer was received from the architect Jean-Etienne Ribard de Chamouste to erect a monumental sculpture at the end of the fields.

Water tower project

Initially, the king was asked to build a 60-meter water tower in the form of an elephant with a functioning fountain, which was to be supplied with water from the pools of La Villette. It was planned to improve the internal premises for concert halls, living quarters for foreign delegations arriving in Paris. At the top of the structure, it was planned to install a statue of the king, surrounded by lions and flags. The reigning king Louis XV abandoned the project, considering this sculptural composition a place of worship for Hannibal, rather than his achievements.

Several years later, leveling work was carried out on the Chaillot hill, due to which it was possible to reduce the slope by almost 5 meters. The leveled site is called Promenoir, but the construction of any objects on it has not yet been envisaged.

In 1785, after the introduction of a tax on entry to Paris, a checkpoint was erected on the territory.

Checkpoint in Paris

In 1798, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nicolas-Louis François de Neufchateau, organized an architectural competition in order to find a suitable project for the construction of the final monument to the Champs Elysees. During the competition, 30 projects will be proposed, but no further action will be initiated later.

Construction of the Arc de Triomphe under Napaleon

Emperor Napoleon I, proclaimed in 1804, gave an order in December 1805 to urgently begin the construction of the Arc de Triomphe in honor of the victory of French soldiers in the battle of Austerlitz. In February 1806, Napoleon signed an imperial decree ordering the erection of an arch in honor of the Great Army. Architect Schalgren is working on the project. The location issue has not been resolved either; it was originally planned to build an arch on the Place de la Bastille, but the intersection of transport routes interferes with the geometry of the entire composition. Three months later, the architects propose to build the Arc de Triomphe in the western part of the Champs Elysees, so that it can be seen from the imperial residence of the Tuileries Palace.

It is interesting to read:  Danton Statue in Paris

The first stone at a depth of 8 meters between the two southern columns was laid on the emperor's birthday - August 15, 1806. Immediately after determining the location of the object, the architects develop the design of the arch: they choose an open structure to use the arch as a gateway to the city. Ideas are taken from the Roman Arch of Titus, the Gate of Saint Denis and the Roman Arch of Constantine.

Arc de Triomphe under Napoleon

April 2, 1810 Napoleon marries the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa. The wedding ceremony should go from the Palace of Saint-Cloud to the Louvre through the main gate - the Arc de Triomphe. At that time, construction was in its early stages - the support pillars barely crawled out to the surface of the earth. In order to have time to build the temporary structure on time, the architect Chalgren orders the painter Louis Laffitte to decorate the structure. To speed up the construction, additional labor is hired - now 500 people are working on the construction of the arch. Later, workers will strike against working conditions and low wages, but after the arrest of several violent workers, others will see wages rise from 4 francs to 24 francs a day.

The total cost of the construction at that time was 511 francs, thanks to such investments, the architect was able to improve the sketch of the finished structure. In January 000, the chief architect of the Arc de Triomphe dies, leaving behind support pillars 1811 meters high. Chalgren's student Louis Robert Gust became the project manager.

Construction of the Arc de Triomphe under Louis XVIII

With the coming to power of King Louis XVIII of France in 1814, the construction of the Arc de Triomphe was suspended. In the period from 1814 to 1823, the monarch received various proposals regarding the construction of the structure, but none of them will be considered and approved. The Arc de Triomphe after the death of Napoleon loses its value for the monarchs.

Arc de Triomphe under Louis XVIII

On October 9, 1823, Louis XVIII issues a decree on the immediate completion of the construction, but the king has no goal to celebrate the victory of Napoleon, he wants to dedicate the opening of the facility to the army of the Pyrenees, which returned the throne to the king of Spain - Ferdinand VII. Two architects, Louis Robert Gost and Jean Nicolas Juillot, are working on the project and decide to complete the initial project by adding two columns in front. In September 1824, the reigning monarch dies, and his brother Charles X comes to replace him, who also adheres to the tactics of completing the arch according to the original project.

Construction of the Arc de Triomphe under Charles X

The erection of two columns in front was not carried out. In 1826, a commission of architects met to approve the decor of the building. 21 caissons with rosettes were approved, carved paintings with high relief on the facades and the stone was chosen from which it was planned to make sculptures. In 1828, the architrave of the entablature was completed, and on July 29, 1829, a memorial marble plaque was installed on the side wall in honor of the revolutionary army of the Pyrenees. In 1830, Charles X was given a draft for approval with 36 statues (symbolizing the major cities of France) to adorn the upper cornice.

Arc de Triomphe under Charles X

On August 2, 1830, more than 20 French gathered near the Arc de Triomphe, led by General Pujol, protesting against the king. Charles X will sign his renunciation of power at the castle of Rambouillet.

It is interesting to read:  Rodin Museum in Paris

Construction of the Arc de Triomphe under Louis Philippe I

With the arrival of a new monarch, the construction of the Arc de Triomphe is suspended again, complicating the situation and overdrafts. On July 31, 1832, the monarch commissioned the court architect Guillaume Abel Bluet to complete the construction.

During the same period, the best sculptors are working on the design of the Arc de Triomphe.

Arc de Triomphe under Louis Philippe I

On July 29, 1836, the construction of the Arc de Triomphe was completed. The grand opening of the monument was planned, but due to the threat of an attack on the ruling monarch, the opening took place in a modest format. The opening ceremony was attended by only 11 people, including French Prime Minister Adolphe Thiers, Finance Minister Antoine Maurice Apollinaire d'Argu, six representatives of the National Guard, a security guard and two official visitors.

Waiting for dusk, the procession went under the arches, which were illuminated by gas lanterns to the amount of 700 units. Discontent related to the names written on the memorial plates immediately rained down. Thus, the names of 128 generals and 172 names of forgotten battles were immediately added. In 1837, in his work Voices Intérieures, Victor Hugo writes of his regret that he did not see his father on the list, who was appointed general in 1814 under Louis XVIII.

Bas-reliefs of the Arc de Triomphe

Since the Arc de Triomphe was erected in honor of the army of Napoleon Bonaparte, a significant part of its elements tell about the deeds and merits of the commanders of the French army. So the impressive 5-meter frieze with bas-reliefs tells about the exploits of the brave souls, in addition, above the bas-relief there is an attic, with the names of 30 victories of the Napoleonic army engraved. For example, one of the fragments of the bas-relief tells about the Battle of Jemappa (1792), when the French army completely defeated the Austrian army, while occupying part of the Austrian Netherlands.

Battle of Arcola
Funeral of General Marceau
Battle of Austerlitz

The architect did not miss to celebrate the victory of Napoleon in Alexandria (1798), one of the bas-reliefs depicts the action when the bulls are carrying the Sphinx in a cart, all this is accompanied by a march (the cart is surrounded by musicians of Napoleon's army). Typical for that era are images of winners in a circle of beautiful ladies who receive all kinds of honors, which the sculptor did not miss to capture.

Battle of Abukir
Battle of Jemappa
Battle of Kanob

Another bas-relief tells about the funeral of General Marceau-Degravier in 1796. The victory of Napoleon over the Turks at Aboukir, consolidated the power of France in the country of the Pyramids until 1802, which is shown on the bas-relief from 1799. A significant event in 1796 - the Battle of Arcole with the Austrian army - is marked on one of the bas-reliefs of the arch, because it was in this battle that Napoleon showed his personal heroism.

Arc de Triomphe sculptures

The main attention to the arch is drawn by four sculptures 12 meters high. The most impressive is the Marseillaise or Volunteer Performance (by F. Ruda), created in 1792. The story of the Marseillaise tells the story of popular valor at a time when the army officers fled before a possible war with Austria. This sculpture shows a true patriot who is ready to lay down his head for France.

It is interesting to read:  Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome

The sculpture "Triumph of 1810" or the Apotheosis of Napoleon, made by the sculptor Corto, in honor of the signing of the Vienna Peace Treaty, under which Austria, in fact, lost most of its territories and became a state dependent on France.

Resistance of 1814
The world of 1815

"Resistance" - a sculpture of 1814, by the sculptor Etex, tells about the fear of the inhabitants of the capital during the Battle of Paris. The sculpture "Peace" (1815) was made, like the previous one by Eteks, but symbolizing peace and grace, ears, swords in a scabbard, a child reading a book speak about it.

Under the Arc de Triomphe

How is the Arc de Triomphe designed and what can you see for free? Go under the Arc de Triomphe and see rosettes on the ceiling, memorial plaques.

Arc de Triomphe observation deck

You can climb to the top both on foot and by elevator. I recommend using the spiral staircase with 284 steps.

Observation deck on the Arc de Triomphe
Spiral staircase to the Arc de Triomphe

Only in this case can you feel the true joy of the realization of overcoming a difficult path. In addition, souvenirs and gifts can be purchased along the way.

To visit the observation deck, you must purchase a ticket.

View from the Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe is interesting not only for its design, but also for the observation deck, which is located on the roof of the building. From this point, the Louvre, Champs Elysees, Triumphal Square, Montparnasse tower and other equally majestic sights of the city are perfectly visible.

The Arc de Triomphe is actually a magnificent example of architecture by French sculptors and craftsmen. Emotions and feelings embedded in the stone tell a difficult period in the life of France, but still full of victories and the triumph of peace.

Arc de Triomphe panoramas

Getting there

It is not difficult to get to the Arc de Triomphe, it is located on a square where several metro lines intersect.

  • By metro: Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile station (1, 2, 6 metro lines)
  • On the Rer A: Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile station

Get to the Arc de Triomphe from the airport

  • From Charles de Gaulle airport. First, we reach the center of Paris on the RER B line to the Gare du nord station (transfer to line 2), Châtelet - Les Halles (transfer to 1 line or RER A train) or Denfert-Rochereau (transfer to line 6). After the change, we go to the Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile station.
  • From Orly airport. If you are taking the RER B train, the transfer stations are the same: Denfert-Rochereau, Châtelet - Les Halles, Gare du nord. You can change to RER C at Champ de Mars - Tour Eiffel (metro line 6). We are going to the transport interchange Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile.
  • From Beauvais Airport. We go by bus to the final stop, which is located next to the transport interchange - the station Neuilly Porte Maillot. We go down to the metro, take 1 metro line and reach Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile in 4 minutes.

Address: Place Charles de Gaulle, Paris 75008
Phone: + 33 01 44 54 19 33
Metro: Charles de Gaulle - Étoile
RER train: Charles de Gaulle - Étoile
Hours: 10: 00-23: 00

Opening hours of the Arc de Triomphe

Month Time
2 January - 31 March 10:00-22:30
April 1 - September 30 10:00-23:00
1 October - 31 December 10:00-22:30

Arc de Triomphe closed: January 1, May 1, May 8, July 14, November 11, December 25 The ticket office closes 45 minutes before the end of the working day.

Arc de Triomphe tickets

The Arc de Triomphe can be visited free of charge: children under 18 years old, young people 18-25 years old (EU members), people with disabilities and their attendants.