It just isn’t possible to go to Paris and not see some of the most inspirational architecture and monuments.  Many of these great buildings and landmarks form an almost straight line – the Axe Historique, which runs from the courtyard of the Louvre through to the Grande Arche de la Défence.  Central to it all is the Arc de Triomphe.

Looking along the Champs Élysées

Inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus, this towering, neoclassical monument honours all those who fought and died for France during the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802) and the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815).

It’s official – it TOWERS over you

Commissioned by Emperor Napoleon I (Napoleon Bonaparte) in 1806 after his victory at Austerlitz, the Arc de Triomphe was designed by Jean Chalgrin and construction began in 1808.

admiring the ceiling detail

It was, however, only completed during the reign of King Louis-Philippe, the last king of France (not including Emperor Napoleon III – the last monarch).

skewed perspective – but it still towers

It was inaugurated in 1836, 15 years after Napoleon’s death, and 21 years after he was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo.

Also at the Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI.  Burning in memory of all the unknown soldiers from both WWI and WWII, it is the first eternal flame lit in both Western and Eastern Europe, since the Vestal Virgin’s flame was extinguished in the fourth century.


The Eternal Flame

This eternal flame served as the inspiration behind Jackie Kennedy’s request that an eternal flame be lit at the grave of her husband John F. Kennedy in Arlington Cemetery, Washington DC.

Alas, my sister and I did not climb up to view Paris from above – seeing that we saw Paris from the Eiffel Tower and Montparnasse Tower during the very same trip.  It seemed like aerial overkill.

Arc de Triomphe from the Eiffel Tower

The reliefs that adorn the upper reaches of the arch are somewhat impossible to really see and appreciate – but at least I enjoyed looking at the four main sculptures that can be seen in all their majestic glory.  For some reason or other, I only have close-up photographs of these three.

Le bas relief de la Marseillaise – Le Départ de 1792 – La Marseillaise

La Résistance 1814

…what looks like a snarling Adonis with wings – detail from La Résistance 1814

La Paix de 1815

Le bas relief du Triomphe de 1820 appears to have alluded me.  It’s the one on the left in the photo below.  Oops.

Is it possible to get a photo sans cars??

Paris, September – 2010