Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile

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Arc de Triomphe
The Triumphal Arch, 2014

The Triumphal Arch, 2014

place Paris
architect Jean-François Chalgrin
Construction year 1806-1836
height 49.54 m
Coordinates 48 ° 52 '26 "  N , 2 ° 17' 42"  E Coordinates: 48 ° 52 '26 "  N , 2 ° 17' 42"  E
Arc de Triomphe (Paris)
Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile ( triumphal arch of the star ) or Arc de Triomphe for short is a monument erected from 1806 to 1836 in the center of Place Charles-de-Gaulle in Paris . It is one of the landmarks of the metropolis. Under the arch is the tomb of the unknown soldier from the First World War with the Eternal Flame , which is maintained daily , called Flamme du Souvenir in French , in memory of the dead who were never identified. Wreaths and tributes are laid throughout the year, culminating in the parade on November 11th, the anniversary of the 1918 armistice between France and Germany .

The Arc de Triomphe is only accessible to pedestrians through an underpass; the triumphal arch has a viewing platform.

The Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile is not to be confused with the lesser known and smaller Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel , which is located between the Palais du Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries .


The triumphal arch served the glory of the imperial armies and is pathetically referred to by some as the "Altar of the Fatherland", because the most solemn state ceremonies in France take place here; pageants often lead from here down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées or end with the Arc de Triomphe as their destination.

It stands in the center of Place Charles de Gaulle (until 1970 Place de l'Étoile ), on the western branch of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées . It is part of the " historical axis ", a series of monuments and major streets that lead out of Paris. Twelve avenues emanate from this triumphal arch in a star shape. The current shape of the square was created in 1854, but its main features had been laid out in a similar way since the late 18th century, albeit with only four streets.

The triumphal arch itself was commissioned by Emperor Napoleon I after the Battle of Austerlitz to glorify his victories in 1806. The foundation stone for the building was laid on August 15, 1806. It took two years to build the foundations. In 1810 the four pylons of the triumphal arch rose up to a height of 1 m. On the occasion of Napoleon's marriage to the Habsburg princess Marie-Louise, the emperor had a provisional model of the triumphal arch made of wood and stucco in its original size. Similar to the elephant of the Bastille , this honor gate stood for a long time as a placeholder for the unfinished monument. In contrast to the case of the elephant, however, the building was ultimately continued.

When the responsible architect Jean-François Chalgrin died in 1811 and Napoleon abdicated in 1814, construction work was stopped. Louis XVIII had it resumed in 1824 under the direction of Héricart de Thury. In 1830 the “citizen king” Louis-Philippe decided to return to the Napoleonic concept. He and Adolphe Thiers decided on the figurative jewelry and its executors. In 1836, under the rule of the "Citizen King", the arch of Huyot and Blouet was completed. The inauguration was on July 29th.

On August 7, 1919, Charles Godefroy flew through the Arc de Triomphe with a Nieuport 11 "Bébé". Another World War II veteran, Jean Navarre, had died weeks earlier while practicing for this flight. In October 1981 Alain Marchand flew through the Arc de Triomphe.

The circuit of the last kilometers of the final stage of the Tour de France , which has ended on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées since 1975 , circles the Arc de Triomphe. Until 2013 , the circuit made a turn directly in front of the Arc de Triomphe (and thus did not circle it).

On the evening of January 9, 2015, the words “ Paris est Charlie ” were projected onto the triumphal arch. The slogan, a modification of " Je suis Charlie ", is the Parisians' commitment to the democratic values ​​of freedom of expression and freedom of the press and a show of solidarity with the victims of terrorist crimes and with the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo .

The figure of Marianne on the triumphal arch was badly damaged on December 1, 2018 in serious riots during the protest actions of the yellow vests movement .


The triumphal arch is 49.54 m high, 44.82 m wide and 22 m deep. The large arch measures 29.19 m in height and 14.62 m in width, the small arch 18.68 m in height and 8.44 m in width. The design is in the style of ancient Roman architecture. The four groups of figures at the base of the arch show The Triumph of 1810 , Resistance , Peace and La Marseillaise or Exodus of the Volunteers of 1792 (by François Rude ). Above, on the areas around the arch, there are bas-reliefs with replicas of important revolutionary and Napoleonic victories. The inner walls of the triumphal arch house a small museum and list the names of 558 French soldiers, mostly generals. The names of those who fell in battle are underlined. See: List of personal names on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris


Inscription inside the triumphal arch relating to the construction of the monument
List of victorious battles of Napoleon

Both the names of great military leaders and 136 battles are immortalized in stone on the arch. The 30 most important battles of Napoleon starting with Valmy can be seen at the top on the frieze at a height of almost 50 meters, while 106 other war events can be found on the pillars. Only victorious battles are recorded.


Rude in front of the relief "Marseillaise" ( Sylvestre , 1893)

The triumphal arch is also famous for the significant reliefs it bears. They were commissioned in 1833 from the sculptors Antoine Étex , Jean-Pierre Cortot and, above all, François Rude. The east facade shows the most famous relief, the Marseillaise (excerpt of the volunteers from 1792) by François Rude (1784–1855), which is also called Le chant du départ , i.e. the farewell song . It depicts a group of outgoing warriors who, obviously revolutionary or exalted nationally - at least one can assume that in this scene - have the new revolutionary song of the Marseillaise on their lips, which was only composed on April 25, 1792.

With the heroic momentum of his portrayal, François Rude far surpasses that of his competitors on this triumphal arch. He began as an academic classicist, but with this, his most famous work, Rude was one of the first to turn away from classicism and turn to romanticism, to a new heroic passion in sculpture, similar to Delacroix in painting.

It is interesting to compare the two reliefs on this page. On the other hand, it is the “Triumph of Napoleon after the Peace of 1810” (the “Triumph” glorifies the Peace of Vienna ) by Cortot. Cortot's relief is still entirely in the tradition of classicist statics, measured hero worship, symmetrical, well-proportioned image structure - in other words, “sublime boredom”.

This atmosphere can also be clearly felt in the reliefs by Antoine Etex on the west side, for example in “Peace”. Here one still has the impression that the themes are presented by a troupe of actors on a theater stage, that motifs from the arsenal have been put together here.

On the four outer sides of the arch there are six bas-reliefs, each depicting famous battles. One of the six sculptors is Jean-Jacques Feuchère with a depiction of the passage over the Arcole bridge .


The artist Christo intended the building during the period from 19 September 2020 for 16 days until October 4, 2020 his art action de L'Arc Triomphe, Wrapped (Project for Paris, Place de l'Etoile - Charles de Gaulle) to conceal . However, he died on May 31, 2020.


  • Thomas W. Gaehtgens : Napoleon's Arc de Triomphe. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1974, ISBN 3-525-82363-0 .
  • Ernst Seidl: La Grande Arche in Paris - form, power, meaning. Kovač, Hamburg 1998, ISBN 3-86064-702-4 .
  • Dominique Fernandes, Gilles Plum, Isabelle Rouge: L'arc de triomphe de l'Étoile. Éditions du patrimoine, Paris 2000, ISBN 2-85822-202-9 .
  • Anne Muratori-Philip: L'Arc de Triomphe. Éditions du Patrimoine, Center des Monuments Nationaux, Paris 2007, ISBN 978-2-85822-969-7 .

Web links

Commons : Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  3. Pilot flew through the triumphal arch . In: Arbeiter-Zeitung . Vienna October 21, 1981, p. 07 ( - the open online archive - digitized).
  4. Yellow West Protests: Parisian landmarks badly damaged in riots . , December 3, 2018, accessed December 8, 2018.
  5. ^ Press - L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped. Accessed April 22, 2019 .
  6. ^ Projects - L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped. Accessed April 22, 2019 .
  7. ^ Artist Christo dies shortly before his 85th birthday NZZ on May 31, 2020
  8. ARD teletext page 411 " Wrapping artist Christo tot " from the field of culture: news . ARD. June 1, 2020. Archived from the original on June 1, 2020. Retrieved June 1, 2020.