15 Fascinating Facts about the Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is one of the must-see sites in Paris. The Arc was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806, but he never got to see it; the structure was completed 15 years after his death. The monument honors brave soldiers who fought for France, particularly, during the Napoleonic Wars. So before you visit Paris, take in these fascinating facts about The Arc de Triomphe.
Facts about The Arc de Triomphe:
- The Arc de Triomphe has 284 steps from the ground level to the top of the arc. If you don’t want to climb all the steps, you can take an elevator to the mid-level and climb 64 stairs to the top.
- There are 660 names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe. The walls under the vault of the Arc de Triomphe list the names of (mostly) French generals of Napoleon. Underlined names signify those killed in action.
- There are 12 straight avenues leading directly to the Arch. The Arc de Triomphe is positioned in the center of twelve Avenues (named after French military leaders) at the end of the Champs-Élysées. Each avenue has multiple lanes turning onto a roundabout that can be up to 10 lanes of traffic thick.
- The Arc de Triomphe is so big that aviator Charles Godefroy flew his fighter plane through the Arc. He did this during the 1919 Paris Victory Parade at the end of World War I – in tribute to the airmen killed in the war.
- The Arc is the second-largest triumphal arch standing today. North Korea deliberately built one larger in 1982.
- Renowned French architect Jean Chalgrin designed the monument in 1806. After Chalgrin’s death in 1811, French architect Jean-Nicolas Huyot was commissioned to complete the work.
- The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier lies beneath the Arc. The grave represents the 1,500,000 soldiers who died during WWI.
- The flame on the tomb has been rekindled every evening since 1923. The ceremony is performed by French soldiers and veterans from different wars who lay wreaths decorated with red, white and blue near its flickering flame.
- The monument has the depth at 72 feet, width at 148 feet, and height at 164 feet. The large vault is 95.8 feet high and 48.0 feet wide while the small vault is 61.3 feet high and 27.7 feet wide.
- The Bastille Day parade on July 14th, traditionally starts at the arch.
- The Tour de France finishes in front of the arch. Since 1975, the final stage of the tour has concluded on the Champs-Élysées.
- The arch’s design was inspired by the Arch of Titus in Rome, Italy.
- Two assassination attempts occurred at the Arc de Triomphe. One against Charles De Gaulle in 1962 and another against Jacques Chirac in 2002. Both men survived.
- Pre-Napoleon (45 years earlier), French architect Charles Ribart submitted his plans for L’éléphant triomphal. This would have been a three-level, elephant-shaped structure with a spiral staircase that led to the underbelly. Ribart’s design was ultimately rejected by the French Government.
- Napoleon finally did get to pass through the completed Arc in 1840. His body was taken through it when it was moved to its final resting place, Les Invalides in Paris.
Want to learn more? Check out these 15 facts about Paris.