L’Arc de Triomphe de L’Etoile

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

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27 thoughts on “L’Arc de Triomphe de L’Etoile

  1. Great photos! Gotta love that traffic on the Champs Elysees. I remember that all too well. We got so frustrated that we walked up a side street to get to the Arc. Totally worth the effort though!

    1. We went by metro, walked along the underground pass and popped out without having to dodge any traffic. It was quite uneventful – although there was quite the gathering of performing artists at the top of the steps to the metro, making it quite the jostle to get out into fresh air!!

  2. The monuments in Paris have a wealth of details.
    Being impossible to show them in a few photos. And each sculpture is a history lesson.
    great photos

    1. Hi Mateus, I agree with you totally – there is detail everywhere you look. I think it is often only when you look back at photographs that you can see just how much there is!

  3. Ah, you are making me miss Paris! If only the digital camera had existed 20 yrs ago when I was a young student there. Simply gorgeous pictures of one of my most favorite monuments! 🙂 Nicole

    1. Hey Nicole – I don’t know, I’ve been going through a lot of my old film/negatives and actually rather enjoying the grainy grimy shots (ok, not of Paris, however!)

    1. Thank you Madhu. Next time I get the pleasure of visiting Paris, I might have to forsake the view from the Eiffel Tower (or more specifically, the cost of getting up there!) and see Paris from the Arc de Triomphe instead. Just to make sure I’m not missing anything!!

  4. Strange you should ask that, because I was wondering whether they’d at last changed the traffic flow and somehow turned the circle of the Etoile into a people place, not the most spectacular roundabout on earth! (BTW navigating my way around the Etoile roundabout just after Christmas, 1972 – twice, the second to prove the first wasn’t a fluke – gave me the confidence to drive all over the world!).

    PS I’m so glad to have seen your close up studies – I’d forgotten just how romanticised war was made to look!

    1. War really was romanticised wasn’t it? In reality there would have been far more snivelling peasants than these war Adonis’ would have us believe!
      I think if you can navigate the Etoile, you can pretty much drive anywhere! Well done you; I’ve never had to try 😉

  5. My one and only visit to Paris was a bit of a disaster. It was mid-summer and hot and very humid. Spent a couple of miserable days there, not being able to enjoy the sights. Nice to be able to see the beauty of Paris through your photos.

    1. Lisa, you must plan to visit Paris (or anywhere on the continent) in late autumn/winter. There are fewer tourists to do battle with, and the weather will be much more amenable to you. My sister and I went mid-September – it was still warm enough to walk around in t-shirts, and it was still quite busy with tourists. I personally would consider going again (should I be so lucky) in October/November, or maybe March/April for spring. High summer season in Europe is not what I call fun!!

      1. That particular trip, I was actually in Europe from mid-winter to the next autumn. I just spent the cooler months playing in the snow in Northern Europe! And travelling through Italy. 😉 Paris was not that high on my list . . . but I don’t know what I was thinking going there during the hottest months and in high season.

      2. Ah ha! Playing in the snow – now that sounds more like it! Sounds like you had your priorities just about right 😉

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