Traveling with Art: Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France

We take a trip once again to Paris, where history and modernity intermingle in a perfect balance of past and present.

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France is a piece of rich history near the middle of the famous city, standing as the hub of radiating avenues like spokes of a wheel. It’s been an important landmark to Paris for many years, ever since the beginning of its construction in 1806, despite numerous setbacks on its design.

The painting you see above is an oil painting by Antoine Blanchard titled “Le Champs Elysees”, showing the famous street in Paris with the Arc de Triomphe in the background.

An illustration of Victor Hugo's tomb under the Arc. Many were devastated at the famous author's death.

An illustration of Victor Hugo’s tomb under the Arc. Thousands were devastated at the famous author’s death.

The Arc was commissioned as a representation of a victory by Emperor Napoleon. The foundations alone took two years, foreshadowing a construction schedule that would take a while. In the following years, it witnessed further setbacks: the first architect, Jean Chalgrin, died; construction was halted during the Bourbon Restoration until 1833, then switched between two more managing architects until its completion, finally, in 1836.

Many famous people have passed under the arch, both alive and dead. The body of Napoleon passed under the arch on the way to his final resting place, and Victor Hugo’s body was viewable under the arch before his burial in the Pantheon.

For France’s Bastille day on July 14th, the military parade begins at l’Arc de Triomphe, although parades now avoid marching through the arch out of respect for the Unknown Soldier’s tomb.

In 1916, an idea was presented to suggest creating a tomb for an unknown soldier. The idea was picked up quickly, and a tomb underneath the arch was created, saying only “A Soldier” and dating it “1914 – 191?”. In 1920 the first eternal flame in Western and Eastern for over a thousand years was lit in honor of the soldiers who were never identified after dying in the midst of war.

A picture taken right during the action as Godefroy flew his plane under the arch.

A picture taken right in the midst of the action as Godefroy flew his plane under the arch.

In 1919, the pilot Charles Godefroy successfully flew his biplane under the arch for a victory parade marking the end of WWI hostilities. This was following the death of Jean Navarre, the pilot first chosen for the ceremony who crashed his plane and died while practicing for the flight.

The arch has clearly been the site of many important events, and today it still stands at its impressive 164 feet (50 meters) high. The bustling lanes in the roundabout circling around the arch are a driver’s worst nightmare, but for those visiting the arch itself, the top offers a spectacular view, looking out over its spot in the famous Champs Elysees.

Don’t forget to visit our other post about Paris. Have you visited the Arc de Triomphe in Paris? What did you think of it?

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