Updated: Jul 30, 2020
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!
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.
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