The Arc de Triomphe is a triumphal arch inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus but at 50 metres high is considerably larger. It stands at the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle and is a key focus for national events.
Originally conceived by Napoleon to honour the dead of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, the arch, designed in 1806, was not completed until 1836.
The four main sculptural groups depict events between 1792 and 1815. Inscriptions on the arch list major French victories in the French Revolution and Napoleonic War. The arch also lists the names of 660 people, most of them generals, who fought in these campaigns. The underlining of some names signifies the death of that person in battle.
After the end of the First World War, the arch was chosen to be the symbolic resting place of the Unknown Soldier, a representative of all those soldiers who had died during the conflict but whose final resting place could not be identified.
A constantly burning, eternal flame burns at the base of the arch.
The Bastille Day parades on July 14th every year involve a military parade along the Champs Elysee past the Arc de Triomphe, aircraft flying above and wreaths laid at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the base of the arch. Originally, victory processions would have passed through the arch, but, since the interment of the Unknown Soldier underneath the arch, parades have been rerouted around the arch.
A viewing platform at the top of the arch provides splendid views over Paris, particularly along the Axe Historique.