In the centre of Place Charles de Gaulle in Paris where a dozen radiating avenues intersect stands the largest and most widely known triumphal arch in the world. The intricately sculpted Arc de Triomphe has a 50-metre viewing platform, which you can climb via 284 steps to see an exploding 12-point star composed of popular Parisian avenues.
Napoleon commissioned the arch in 1806 to celebrate his victory at Austerlitz, which was one of the most important and decisive battles of the Napoleonic Wars. He gave the project to Chalgrin and Jean-Arnaud Raymond who modelled the design after the first century AD Arch of Titus in Rome. The first stone of the arch was laid to coincide with Napolean’s birthday on August 15.
There are four main sculptural groups on each pillar of the arch, which include: Le Départ de 1792, or La Marseillaise, by Françoise Rude, which shows an allegorical representation of winged war volunteers; Le Triomphe de 1810 by Jean-Pierre Cortot, which celebrates the Treaty of Schöhbrunn and shows Napoleon being crowned by the goddess of victory; La Résistance de 1814 by Antoine Étex, which commemorates the French defense during the War of the Sixth Coalition; and La Paix de 1815 by Antoine Étex, which commemorates the Treaty of Paris. The arch also includes six sculpted reliefs representing important moments of the French Revolution and Napoleonic era.
Within the inner walls of the arch is a list of 558 French generals with the names of those who died in battle underlined. Beneath these walls lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which honours over 1.3 million soldiers who fought and died for France during the French Revolution, Napoleon Wars and World War I. Every evening at 6:30 p.m., the eternal flame that rests on the tomb is rekindled.
The Parisian Arc de Triomphe is a physical commemoration that holds the history of important French battles and that honours all of the people who fought for France’s liberty.