The official decision to erect a triumphal arch to the glory of the Grand Armée was made official on February 18, 1806 by Napoleon I. The first stone of the monument was laid six months later. But why did it take thirty years for it to be inaugurated?

The design chosen was that of the architect Jean-François Chalgrin, whose plans were to be followed despite the times.

The length construction is not only due to the magnitude of the project. The economic difficulties caused by the Russian campaign of 1812 slowed down its construction and in addition the sudden death of Chalgrin on January 21, 1811 put in doubt the completion of the arch. After the fall of the Empire in 1815, the construction site remained closed for almost ten years!

Le roi des français Louis-Philippe

After the revolution of 1830, France entered a period of monarchical leadership but with a certain spirit representative of the French people. In 1832 Louis-Philippe, proclaimed King of the French (instead of King of France), decided to revive the project initiated by Napoleon in a spirit of reconciliation, in order to unite all French people. In this way, the King of the French, took up the Emperor's project again and extended his promise made after his victory at the battle of Austerlitz, "You will only return to your homes under the arches of triumph", proclaimed Napoleon I to his soldiers on December 2, 1805.

This is why King Louis-Philippe took it upon himself to carry out the successful negotiation of the return of Napoleon I's remains to the French capital. And at the celebration of his state funeral on the way to the Chapelle Royale des Invalides, the coffin of the military genius passed under the arch that he never saw in his lifetime. Celebrating Napoleon's victories in this way, and adding to his legend, served as great symbolism for the mandate of the new King of the French. Just like Napoleon used a lot of symbolism from the Roman Empires that is reflected in the arch itself.

The Arc de Triomphe, inaugurated on 29 July 1836, is 49 meters high and over 45 meters wide. On the inner surfaces of the Arch are engraved the names of the generals and the great battles of the Revolution and the Empire. Being in front of this structure makes us feel small like ants and understand how monumental the architectural work is.

For this reason we highly encourage you to get close to the Arch instead of observing it only from across the roundabout that surrounds it. Next time you visit, remember that the top of the arch offers one of the most spectacular views of the city and the good thing is that you can skip a big part of the line by getting your flexible digital tickets HERE.

Bonne visite!

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One of the most impactful buildings to be used in serving the memory of a man:

The Hôtel des Invalides

This monumental construction was commissioned way before Napoleon's birth; in 1670 by King Louis XIV in order to provide accommodation and hospital care for wounded soldiers. It served for the same purpose for centuries and it still does up to a certain extend.

In 1815, the last year of Napoleon in power, over 5,000 survivors of the Great Army were treated here as they recovered. The energy of the fallen soldiers is said to have been restored every time their commander-in-chief, Napoleon himself, visited the hospital in 1808, 1813 and 1815.

No hospital of the time of Louis XIV would be complete without a chapel, and this was not the exception. At the end of the 17th century architect Jules-Hardouin Mansart designed a building which combined a royal chapel (now Dôme des Invalides) with a veterans' chapel (now Cathedral of Saint-Louis des Invalides). The interior of the dome was painted with a Baroque illusion of space when seen from below. Inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, the Dôme des Invalides is the triumph of French Baroque architecture and was Paris' tallest building until the Eiffel Tower was erected in 1889.

These glorious characteristics as well as the positive impact that the Emperor produced over his wounded soldiers during his visits were the main reasons that pushed King Louis-Philippe to choose this place to be the tomb for the Emperor’s mortal remains.

Napoleon’s remains were successfully returned to France in 1840 (19 years after his death). In his will, he had asked to be buried on the banks of the Seine, but since he passed away during his exile at the British island Saint Helena, the British governor in charge decided to have him buried in the same place. Nevertheless King Louis-Philippe negotiated the return of the former emperor successfully and it was celebrated with a grand state funeral and a sort of parade for the hearse, starting at the Arc de Triomphe going down the Champs-Élysées all the way to the Place de la Concorde and finally onto the Esplanade des Invalides. But it took a bit over 20 years before Napoleon’s tomb was finished!

The architect Ludovico Visconti designed a circular crypt, without a ceiling, so that it is possible to look in from ground-level so that without even realising the visitors offer a reverence to the emperor. Napoleon’s sarcophagus stands in the middle, on a granite pedestal. Inside it there are six more coffins of different kinds of wood and metal, almost like a Matryoshka doll!

Today, many visitors of Napoleon’s tomb reach a similar conclusion: it is a jaw-dropping experience, and really mind-boggling to see such a majestic place dedicated to one man. It makes the legend of the man seem, well, god-like. This type of resting place is reminiscent of the pharaohs, who viewed themselves as deities. Except the shapes and motifs are totally different as they are not unique.

The basis of baroque architecture is to display the omnipotence of God. When developed by the Catholic Church, this type of baroque with highly decorative and theatrical elements uses domes that are meant to emulate heaven.

Other masterworks of baroque architecture around the world as they are dedicated to God may be sublime, but the Royal Chapel of the Dôme des Invalides is incredibly dedicated “just” to a mortal. Napoleon is not buried there alone, he is accompanied by his brothers Joseph and Jerôme Bonapart, his son Napoleon II, and several military officers who served under his empire. Interestingly, some of the vaults there hold just the hearts of 9 generals, while the rest of their bodies are interred elsewhere. This is also reminiscent of Egyptian burial practices and of other cultures who place importance to the posthumous heart organ. In fact, although Napoleon II’s body is at Invalides, his heart remains in Vienna.

As you can imagine we highly encourage every traveler in Paris to visit this historical and magnificent place during their stay in the city of light.

If you decide to follow our recommendation please dedicate a bit more time to this visit as the tickets also include access to the adjacent museum of war and military history, which houses one of the largest collections of war artefacts in the world dating from medieval times!

Get your flexible tickets HERE and we wish you a wonderful and glorious visit!

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Robespierre was a French lawyer and statesman who campaigned for universal manhood suffrage. He was a follower of many of Rousseau’s beliefs, and fought for the abolition both of celibacy for the clergy, and slavery. In 1791, Robespierre became an outspoken advocate for the citizens without a political voice, for their unrestricted admission to the National Guard, to public offices, and for the right to carry arms in self-defence. He played an important part in the agitation which brought about the fall of the French monarchy on 10 August 1792 and the summoning of a National Convention. He also coined the famous motto "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité" by adding the word fraternity on the flags of the National Guard. This remains the motto of today’s France.

Robespierre did not feel that he owed anything to the bureaucracy and his goal was to create a united and indivisible France, equality before the law, to abolish prerogatives and to defend the principles of direct democracy. Robespierre was eventually undone by his obsession with the vision of an ideal republic and his indifference to the human costs of installing it, which turned both members of the Convention and the French public against him. At the peak of his power, he famously said in a speech that marked the name of this time period:

“If the basis of popular government in peacetime is virtue, the basis of popular government during a revolution is both virtue and terror; virtue, without which terror is baneful; terror, without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing more than speedy, severe and inflexible justice; it is thus an emanation of virtue; it is less a principle in itself, than a consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing needs of the patrie [homeland, fatherland].”

- Robespierre 1794

In order to understand Robespierre’s fidelity to his ideals, we should understand where they came from.Like said before, one of his major influences was Rousseau's Social Contract, which argued that each person was born with rights, and they would come together to form a government that would then protect those rights. Under the social contract, the government was required to act for the general will, which represented the interests of everyone rather than a few factions.

Drawing from the idea of a general will, Robespierre felt that the French Revolution could result in a Republic built for the general will but only once those who fought this ideal were expelled. Other sources that laid the foundation to the Reign of Terror’s ideas came from many Enlightenment thinkers. Enlightenment thought emphasized the importance of rational thinking and began challenging legal and moral foundations of society, providing the leaders of the Reign of Terror with new ideas about the role and structure of government.

His post-revolution ideas were so radical that the y decided to start a new Calendar, marketing as year 1, renaming all the months and extending the week from 7 days to 10. French Revolutionary calendar (calendrier révolutionnaire français), was a calendar created and implemented during the French Revolution, and used by the French government for about 12 years from late 1793 to 1805, and for 18 days by the Paris Commune (another revolution) in 1871. Immediately following 14 July 1789, papers and pamphlets started calling 1789 year I of Liberty and the following years II and III.

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