The Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, is the world’s largest triumphal arch. It forms the backdrop for an remarkable urban collection in Paris. The monument surmounts the hill of Chaillot at the center of a star-shaped configuration of 12 radiating avenues. It is the pinnacle of a vista seen the length of the Champs Elysées from the smaller Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in the Tuileries gardens, and from the Obélisque de Luxor in the place de la Concorde.
Since 1920, the tomb of France’s Unknown Soldier has been sheltered underneath the arch. Its eternal flame memorializes the dead of the two world wars, and is rekindled every evening at 6:30. On every Armistice Day, the President of the Republic lays a ceremonial wreath on the tomb. On July 14, the French National Day, a military parade begins at the arch and proceeds down the Champs Elysées. For main occasions of state, and on national holidays, a huge French tricolor is unfurled and hung from the vaulted ceiling inside of the Arch. The last leg of the Tour de France bicycle race also finishes here on the third or fourth Sunday in July.
At the bases of the Arc’s pillars are four huge relief sculptures, commemorating The Triumph of 1810; Resistance, Peace; and the Departure of the Volunteers, which is commonly known as La Marseillaise. On the day the Battle of Verdun started, the sword carried by the figure representing the Republic broke off from La Marseillaise. The relief was immediately hidden to conceal the accident, so that it would not be interpreted as a bad omen.
Carved around the top of the Arch are the names of major victories won during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods. However the names of less important victories, as well as those of 558 generals, can be found on the inside walls.
The first view of this enormous monument will be startling. Naturally as it is the largest arch in the world. The imposing triumphal arch in Paris standing on an elevation at the end of the Avenue des Champs Élysées and in the center of the Place de l’Étoile, which is formed by the intersection of 12 radiating avenues. It celebrates the victories of Napoleon I, under whose decree it was built. Construction was begun in 1806 by J. F. Chalgrin from his own designs and was carried on after his death by L. Goust, J. N. Huyot, and G. A. Blouet successively, who brought the arch to completion in 1836. In 1920 the body of an unknown French soldier of World War I was interred beneath the arch, and a perpetual flame was lighted.
One can climb right to the top of the Arc De Triomphe for a small fee. Any person will have to climb 260 steps up the narrow spiral staircase. Inside the arch, at the top, there is a small museum which has displays about topical events and the background history of the arch. There is a souvenir shop there, too. One can go outside at the top and enjoy the view across the city. There is a special fence to keep everyone safe. When one walks around, one can see all the twelve avenues that make up the “star”.