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12 Interesting Facts About Arc De Triomphe

Do you know that there are many interesting facts about Arc de Triomphe?

With its grandness and eventful history, the Arc de Triomphe is also noteworthy, despite the fact that the Eiffel Tower is often considered as Paris’ ultimate symbol.

From its construction to its being among the quintessential Parisian landmark, the Arc has quite a fascinating story to tell.

12 Interesting Facts About Arc De Triomphe

Here are some truly interesting Arc de Triomphe facts to learn more about this iconic structure.

Arc De Triomphe facts
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1. The Arc de Triomphe by numbers

Some fascinating facts and figures about one of Paris’ most famous landmarks:

  • The monument is 50 meters tall (164 feet), 45 meters wide (148 feet), and 22 meters deep (72 feet).
  • The great vault stands at a height of 29.19 meters (95.8 feet) and a width of 14.62 meters (48.0 feet).
  • The little vault stands at a height of 18.68 meters (61.3 feet) and a width of 8.44 meters (27.7 feet).
  • The Arc de Triomphe cost a total of 10,432,000 francs to build.

2. The Arc of Triomphe was commissioned by Napoleon

On August 15, 1806, Napoleon ordered the Arc’s contraction.

It was his aim to pay tribute in some way to the mighty French army, which he considered unbeatable after conquering most of Europe.

Napoleon’s birthday fell on the day the commission was given. However, Napoleon died in 1821, thus he never saw his much-loved vision come to fruition.

Napoleon ultimately passed through the finished Arc in 1840, when his remains had been brought to its last burial place. 

Arc de Triomphe

3. Before the Arc De Triomphe, the space was almost Un Éléphant Géant.

A three-story elephant-shaped edifice with a spiral staircase reaching up into the elephant’s gut was planned by French architect Charles Ribart before Napoleon commissioned the Arc.

The elephant’s trunk would house a drainage system, and the furniture would be able to fold into the walls.

Ribart was ready to start work on the gigantic pachyderm when the French government turned him down. Visitors to France who wish to see a giant element structure can instead visit the city of Nantes. 

4. Four Individual Sculptor Groups are represented by the Four Pillars

If you examine the Arc closely, you’ll discover that each of the four pillars has a unique sculptural piece.

The first, devoted to Le Départ de 1792, was designed by François Rude. This sculptor pays respect to France’s First Republic.

The second monument, Le Triomphe de 1810, was created by Jean-Pierre Cortot. This depicts Napoleon being crowned victorious after the Treaty of Schönbrunn.

The third pillar, which represents the 1814 Résistance, was created by Antoine Étex. It commemorates the resistance of the French during the Sixth Coalition War.

Finally, the Paix de 1815 is represented by the fourth pillar, which was designed by Antoine Étex. This one commemorates the Treaty of Paris.

5. Limestone was used to build the Arc De Triomphe

The entire Arc de Triomphe is constructed using limestone, a sedimentary rock. Limestone is formed by thousands of years of weathering and comes from the oceans.

A mixture of calcium carbonate and mud develops and solidifies into limestone when bones and shells pile up on the ocean floor. This material’s character results to the arc’s recognizable facade. 

6. The plane of Charles Godefroy flew through the Arc

Since this Paris monument is so popular, French aviator Charles Godefroy flew his Nieuport fighter jet through the Arc de Triomphe in a spectacular flight after World War I ended.

The French government requested that the Pilots accompany the Infantry through Paris after the battle.

The airmen regarded it as a personal slight and decided to fly through the Arc de Triomphe.

When the first-choice pilot, Jean Navarre, died during practice, Godefroy was blamed.

His flight was still impressive, however, and since it was recorded, people today can still watch it here.

7. An unknown soldier was buried beneath the Arc

Like many other countries, France has a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beneath the Arc de Triomphe.

Since November 10, 1920, the grave of the Unknown Soldier has been marked with the inscription “Here sleeps a French soldier who died for his fatherland 1914-1918.”

An eternal flame was lighted at the moment to memorialize those who had fallen in the war.

8. There’s not so triumphant side of Arc De Triomphe.

The Arc de Triomphe has seen both victories as well as defeats. Germans marched beneath the bridge during the Franco-Prussian War of 1871.

The Nazis used the Arc de Triomphe during the German occupation of Paris during WWII.

On the Champs Élysées and Avenue Foch, Germans had draped a Swastika flag at the Arc de Triomphe and held military parades with marching bands.

9. There were two assassination attempts near the Arc De Triomphe

Monsieur Charles De Gaulle, a French army officer, and former President Jacques Chirac were among those who avoided assassination attempts at the Arc de Triomphe.

Monsieur Charles De Gaulle survived over thirty assassination attempts during his time. Meanwhile, Monsieur Jacques Chirac evaded assassination when addressing the military on Bastille Day in 2002.

10. The flame at the Arc has been burning for nearly a century.

On November 11, 1923, Andre Maginot, a French civil servant, soldier, and Member of Parliament, lighted the eternal flame of remembering at the Arc. It hasn’t been quenched since then.

It is renewed every evening at 6:30 p.m., and veterans place wreaths around the flame.

After her husband, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in 1963, Jacqueline Kennedy requested that a comparable flame be erected beside his tomb, inspired by this perpetual flame on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

11. There are 246 Steps to the top of Arc de Triomphe.

The Arc de Triomphe has 284 steps leading to its top deck. Free walking tours are available around the base of the Arc and under its arches.

An admission fee of $15 per person is required to climb the Arc de Triomphe’s 284 stairs and enjoy a panoramic view of Paris.

However, the scenery and experience are well worth it.

12. There’s a 20th century version of the Arc in Champs-Elysees.

In 1989, another arch was built in the other end of the Champs-Élysées. In both style and meaning, this new monument, named La Grande Arche de la Défense, placed a modern spin on the traditional triumphal arch.

This elegant cube-shaped monument, which stands 360 feet tall, is reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe, which is located at the other end of the 1.2-mile boulevard. The goal of this monument is what sets it apart from its Neoclassical cousin.

Rather than stressing France’s military achievements, this modern arch promotes the country’s variety by serving as a “window to the world” and “a location where individuals from many origins and cultures may meet and communicate”—an excellent model for modern France.

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