Saturday, December 29, 2012

Why I Love The Arc de Triomphe

I love the arc de triomphe. It is the Empire State Building of Paris in my eyes.

My interest in Napoleon's desire to honor the Grand Armée with this immense arch perhaps falls hand-in-hand with my fondness of films such as Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan, The Last of The Mohicans, The Pianist and Cassablana. Neverthless, the few times I've visited Paris and the few times I've stood in front of the arc de triomphe, I often think of visitors who prefer the tour eiffel over the arc de triomphe. Yes, both are marvelous in their own way: (1) a monument to honor the French military and (2) an entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair, today's symbol of France, and even a symbol of love.

I'm certainly no historian, nor am I anti-love. I simply never tire of the magnificence of the arc de triomphe. Whenever I stand in front of its simple design and colossal size, typical of late 18th century romantic neoclassicism, my smile is that of a child who sees his favorite characters at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl.

Again, I love it. All of it.

The sculptures unique to each pillar represent historic moments and they are names of major battles in Napoleonic wars: The Departure of the Volunteers in 1792 (aka la marseillaise), Napoleon's Triumph of 1810, Resistance of 1814 and Peace of 1815.

 I love the rose sculpted ceilings, the richly sculptured frieze of soldiers, and the arch's placement at the étoile--with its 12 streets. I love that the étoile is clearly a death trap but like many things in France, the French make it work. My sister and I once drove around the arc de triomphe and I swore to myself I'd never do it again unless I either had a Frenchman drive me or I had excellent health insurance.

I love the inside walls of the monument listing names of 558 French generals--names of those who died in battles are underlined. I also love the Unknown Soldier buried beneath the arc de triomphe,  which burns in memory of the dead who were never identified in both World War I and World War II.

Unknown Soldier
And finally, I love the 30 shields with names of major revolutionary and Napoleonic military victories engraved above the army bordering the top of the arch.

Napoleon I may have made several mistakes (putting it lightly) as the emperor of the French, but I'll give him this: The arc de triomphe is a truly remarkable structure adored and to be adored by people from every generation, from every part of the world.

Until next time... :)

No comments:

Post a Comment