Friday, January 6, 2012

Arc de Triomphe ~ Paris ~ France

It was a sight to behold and got better as we drew nearer. We were riding on the top level of one of the many double decker tour buses in Paris for a bird's eye view and as we travelled down the Champs Elysees.  We had so many sights to see but the one incredible sight at the end of the street that was spellbinding was the Arc de Triomphe. It is hard to capture all the beautiful features of this fine piece of history and architecture while riding around it on top of a tour bus but I did feel I had some advantages from my viewpoint that I would not have from the street.  The sculptures engraved in the Arch are incredible and I hope to take us back in time with the story behind this work of art. 

Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysees in Paris, France
Napolean Bonaparte first commissioned the Arch in 1806 by the French architect Jean Chalgrin, to commemorate his victories but due to circumstances it was not finished until long  the death of Chalgrin in 1911.  The construction was not completed until the reign of King Louis-Philippe 1833-1836 with the talents of other architects long after Napoleon's death

The size of the Arc de Triomphe is bigger than expected
Napoleon Bonaparte had wanted the Arc to be completed to impress his new bride when she arrived in 1810 but a temporary wooden one had to be built in order to be ready on time as only the base had been completed during those first four years.

A close-up of the sculptural relief on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France

The model for the Arc de Triomphe was based on the Arch of Titus in Rome, which was 15 meters high but the Arc de Triomphe was over 50 metres (164’) when it was completed in 1836. There are 234 steps that visitors can climb and get an amazing view of the city and if you look at the first photo you will see some of those visitors enjoying the view from the top. 
The history showing the soldiers in battle
The top of the Arc has 30 shields which each bears the name of a successful battle of Napoleon’s.  The four supporting columns of the Arc have names of major battles of major battles of Napoleonic wars.   
The interior walls are engraved with names of French Generals
The names of 558 French Generals are engraved on the inner face of the Arc and the names of those who died in battle have been underlined.  The most famous of all the reliefs on the Arc is the Departure of the Volunteers and is commonly called La Marseillaise. 

The artwork of the Arc de Triomphe is incredible
Napoleon Bonaparte was a many of many accomplishments and it was too bad he didn’t live long enough to see the Arc when it was completed.  If this was what he had envisioned from the beginning, then he was once again a winner.  Napoleon’s body was carried through these arches in 1840 when it was moved to Les Invalides in Paris, where it resides to this day. 

Visitors come to see the amazing Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France
The Unknown Soldier represents 1,500,000 French soldiers who lost their lives in WW!.  This was following the example of the Unknown Warrior buried at Westminster Abbey in London, England. The Flame of Remembrance on this tomb is a tribute to all those soldiers who were never identified from both WW 1 and 2.  The flame is rekindled daily and they celebrate the anniversary of armistice on November 11th yearly.

The magnificant Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France

The size of the Arc makes it a very impressive sight to see as it sits tall in Place Charles de Gaulle, at the junction where twelve streets meet, all named after French military leaders.  It is large enough that an aviator was able to fly his Nieuport biplane through it at the 1919 Paris Victory Parade to mark the end of WW 1. 
This is the place where troops have rallied and held many parades and where millions of visitors have come to pay their respects to the millions of soldiers that it represents and to see the history of valiant battles engraved on the Arc de Triomphe.  It is a wonderful sight to behold in a city that has many incredible sights, like the Eiffel Tower, one of which I will also share.

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