Sacré-Cœur

France

At the summit of Butte Montmartre hill sits one of the most iconic monuments in Paris, Sacré-Cœur Basilica. The basilica is recognized from different points of the city by its white colour, three large apses and its Roman-Byzantine architectural style. Sacré-Cœur was designed by Paul Abadie in 1875 and is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ; a popular view of a loving and sympathetic Christ. The basilica has one of the largest mosaics in the world, which covers the ceiling near the largest central apse and spans about 475 square metres. The mosaic is titled Christ in Glory and was created by Olivier Merson, H.M. Magne and R. Martin. It features the risen Christ, wearing white with his arms extended revealing a golden heart and surrounded by adorers and saints, including the Virgin Mary, Saint Michael and Saint Joan of Arc.

Sacré-Cœur is a basilica unique in its design and placed perfectly atop the highest point of Paris, offering panoramic views 130 metres above ground.

 

Eiffel Tower

France

When I first laid eyes on the infamous Iron Lady, I was swept away. There she was in all of her glory, standing over 1,000 feet high; the 10,000-tonne iron skeleton. She is something out of a fairytale with her unique shape and composition. Who would have thought that this sculpture made entirely out of iron could be so captivating as to draw in travellers from every corner of the world? Oh, but to see her under the moonlight. What beauty; what radiance! Lined with over five billion lights, she shines brightly in the darkness of the night. She lights up the city like a starry night and gives it life and character. In the evening, every hour on the hour for five minutes she dances. Over 20,000 bulbs flicker in a soundless symphony of lights, making the tower sparkle like pixy dust. She is truly magical and a thing of dreams.

The architectural wonder of the Eiffel Tower is the symbol of the city and the pride of every Parisian. Oddly enough, when the tower was first constructed, citizens considered it an “eyesore,” the “ugliest building in Paris” and “structurally unsound.” Three hundred artists, sculptors, writers and architects even sent a petition to the commissioner of the Paris Exposition to stop the construction of the “ridiculous tower” that would hover over Paris like a “gigantic black smokestack.” Fortunately, officials saved the tower, which was only meant to be a temporary exhibition for the 1899 World Fair, due to its utility as a radio-telegraph station.

During World War II, the tower intercepted enemy radio communications, alerted the city of attacks and dispatched emergency troops. Even Hitler ordered the tower to be destroyed! But there she is today, still standing strong despite all efforts to destroy her and has now been the model of over 30 replicas and similar structures around the world.

The world-famous Eiffel Tower is known to be designed by French engineer Gustave Eiffel, but his employees, Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier, actually came up with the design. Koechlin also collaborated with Eiffel on the Statue of Liberty several years earlier.

With over 18,000 pieces of lattice wrought-iron and 2.5 million rivets, the tower was meant to demonstrate France’s industrial excellence and power to the world. When the tower was built, iron was a new material that sprouted during the Industrial Revolution and usually appeared internally in buildings. The tower was built to sway slightly in the wind, but the sun is actually what makes the tower sway the most. The sun-facing side heats up and moves the top section of the tower as much as seven inches away from the sun. The sun also makes the tower grow six inches vertically.

The tower is composed of 7,300 tons of iron and 60 tons of paint, costing the city about 8 million francs to build. The tower is repainted every seven years and has been painted a total of 18 times. It has three platforms: the first, 190 feet above the ground; the second, 376 feet; and the third, 900 feet. There are 1,710 steps and two elevators. One elevator travels a total distance of 103,000 kilometres each year to accommodate the seven million yearly visitors.

Although the Eiffel Tower has no utility or purpose today, it is imbued with symbolic meaning as it was one of the first structures in Paris open to people of different social and ethnic backgrounds.

 

 

 

 

Musée de l’Orangerie

France

Located in the west corner of the Tuileries Gardens next to Place de la Concorde in Paris stands Musée de l’Orangerie, an art museum most famous for its exhibition of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies; an impressive series of giant panels full of colours and brushstrokes that depict Monet’s flower garden in Giverny. The masterpiece spans eight panels, each two metres high and a total length of 91 metres. The panels are arranged in two oval rooms that form the infinity symbol and allows natural light to enter through the ceiling; a technique Monet suggested that will immerse visitors in a state of grace. The oval rooms were strategically situated on an east-west orientation to place them along the historical axis of Paris which runs from the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre.

The building was first built as a winter shelter for the orange trees in the garden of the Tuileries Palace in 1852. The building was built like a greenhouse as the southern façade is made of glass to let the light enter, while the opposite side has almost no windows to block the northern winds. Then, from 1871 to 1922, the building was used to host cultural events like music shows, art exhibitions, banquets and contests. Eventually, Georges Clemenceau, former president of the council for the Fine Arts, suggested installing the Water Lilies panels Monet was painting.

Various masterpieces collected by French architect Jean Walter and French art dealer Paul Guillaume are in the basement level of the museum and include works by Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Rousseau, Alfred Sisley, Chaim Soutine and Maurice Utrillo.

Musée d’Orsay

France

On the Left Bank of the Seine River in Paris rest the Musée d’Orsay, a museum devoted to arts between 1848-1914. The museum is housed in a former train station, Gare d’Orsay, that was constructed by Victor Laloux for the 1900 World Fair and was booming with commuters. During and after World War II, the station became deserted and was no longer used, which led the city to have plans to tear it down in 1960. The building, however, was saved as the city decided to convert it into a museum to showcase Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings and collections of sculptures and decorative arts.

Musée d’Orsay is one of the largest art museums in Europe and hosts the most extensive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world. Notable artists whose works rest in the Orsay are Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Georges Seurat, Alfred Sisley, Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh.

The Orsay is also recognized for its colossal clocks that double as windows giving the museum an overall allegorical theme of a window through time to the Age of Liberalism when impressionism was taking a stand.

Arc de Triomphe

France

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.