The Triumphal Arch, a french symbol of glory

The construction of the Triumphal Arch

The construction of the Triumphal Arch was requested by Napoleon in 1806 following the victory of the Battle of Austerlitz. He declared to the French soldiers: « You will return to your homes only under triumphal arches. » A debate took place. Indeed, Napoleon wanted to build this arc on the old site near the Bastille at the entrance of Boulevards. However, his minister Champagny was opposed to the construction of this monument at this place. He advised the emperor to place it either at Concorde or on the old « Place de l’Etoile ».

Its tumultuous construction began on August 15, 1806 under the supervision of the architect Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin. Following his death on January 21, 1811 his collaborator L. Goust took over. However, during ten years following the fall of the empire the construction was stopped. It is in the autumn of 1824 under the government of Louis XVIII that the works were taken over by Goust to celebrate the Spanish expedition. According to Louis Philippe, the bow would not be devoted to the Grande Armée alone, but to all the French campaigns from 1792 to 1815. On the last project adopted on May 9, 1833, the bow was completed by an honest practitioner, Guillaume-Abel Blouet (1795-1853). His name alone appears on the monument.

Triumphal Arch’s artist

More than twenty-two different artists worked on the ornamentation of this monument. The four great high-reliefs of the pyres were consecrated to the Republic (Departure of the Volunteers), the Empire (the Triumph of 1810 and the Resistance) and the Restoration (Peace). Regarding the frieze (157 meters long and two meters high) it has been divided between six artists each with the same length. The monument was completed by inscriptions. Indeed, Napoleon wanted to engrave the names of the leaders of the campaign of 1805.

There too, the theme was expanded, which allowed at the same time to mitigate the nakedness of the walls. Indeed, you can see names of battles on the shields of the attic and especially, on the piers, names of generals. This list was established by General Saint-Cyr-Nugues and several times extended to accommodate the claims of descendants. Until 1895, names were added, to arrive at the number of 660.

French symbolic monument, triumphal arch buil in 1836

French symbolic monument, Triumphal Arch built in 1836

Thirty years after the laying of the first stone, the arch was inaugurated on July 29, 1836 outside the presence of Louis-Philippe and as discreetly as at the beginning: each regime, Empire, Restoration, Monarchy of July had paid to about exactly the third. The starting cost of the construction of this monument was 6 754 000 francs it finally amounted to 9 651 116 F.
Finally, this building, architectural achievement, exceeding the commemorative object wanted by Napoleon and Louis-Philippe. In fact, it is also a psychological success because became a symbolic national monument.

By Auriane Rozan


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