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The Arc de Triomphe in Paris is a monumental triumphal arch located at the western end of the Champs-Élysées at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle, formerly known as the “Place de l’Étoile”. It was built in honor of those who fought for France during the French Revolution, in particular, those who fought in the Napoleonic wars.
See the fact file below for more information on the Arc de Triomphe or alternatively, you can download our 27-page Arc de Triomphe worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Construction of the arch was commissioned by Napoleon I in 1806 and was completed in 1836 during the reign of King Louis-Philippe I of France.
- Napoleon I ordered the building of the arch to the glory of his Great Army after their victory over Austro-Russian troops in the Battle of Austerlitz (December 2, 1805).
- While under construction, many modifications to the original plan were made due to political changes and power struggles between the architects that occurred during construction of the arch.
- Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin was the monument’s chief architect. He drew inspiration from Greek and Roman arches.
- Laying the foundations took two years and, in 1810, when Napoleon entered Paris from the west with his bride, Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria, a wooden mock-up of the completed arch was constructed.
- In 1811, Chalgrin died and the work was taken over by Jean-Nicolas Huyot. But during the Bourbon Restoration, construction was halted and it would not be completed until the reign of King Louis-Philippe.
- King Louis-Philippe I of France came into power following the July Revolution in 1830. Construction of the arch resumed between 1833 and 1836. The architects during this time were Goust, then Huyot under the direction of Héricart de Thury.
- Inauguration of the monument was in 1836. The dedication was changed and the iconography was designed to glorify the armies of the Revolution and the Empire.
Major National Events
- The Arc de Triomphe bore witness to major national events such as the return of Napoleon I’s ashes in 1840, the vigil for the funeral of Victor Hugo in 1885, and the First World War victory parade by the Allies on 14 July 1919.
- On 15 December 1840, Napoleon’s remains were brought back to France from Saint Helena, and passed under the arch on their way to the Emperor’s final resting place at the Invalides.
- On the night of 22 May 1885, the body of Victor Hugo was displayed under the Arc prior to burial in the Panthéon.
- On 7 August 1919, pilot Charles Godefroy successfully flew his biplane under the Arc.
- The Arc de Triomphe became the rallying point of French troops parading after successful military campaigns.
- Famous victory marches around or under the Arc have included the Germans in 1871, the French in 1919, the Germans in 1940, and the French and Allies in 1944 and 1945.
- Up to the present day, the arch has been the starting point for the annual Bastille Day Military Parade held on the morning of 14 July in Paris since 1880.
- In 1995, the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria placed a bomb near the Arc de Triomphe, which wounded 17 people as part of a campaign of bombings against Western ideals.
Architecture and Design
- The Arc de Triomphe stands 162 ft tall, 150 ft wide and 72 ft deep. The vault is 95.8 ft high and 48.0 ft wide. The smaller vault is 61.3 ft high and 27.7 ft wide.
- The design is a neoclassical version of ancient Roman architecture by Chalgrin.
- Major academic sculptors of France are represented in the sculptures of the Arc de Triomphe: Jean-Pierre Cortot, François Rude, Antoine Étex, James Pradier and Philippe Joseph Henri Lemaire.
- The most celebrated sculpture is the work of François Rude – La Marseillaise – on the pillar of the arch facing the Champs-Élysées. It depicts the departure of 200,000 volunteers in 1792 to defend the young Republic: a winged woman, the Genius of Liberty, exhorts the people to fight.
- Six reliefs sculpted above the pillars depict famous and important moments from the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.
- The walls of the arches are engraved with the names of battles and general from wars fought by France during the Revolution and under the Empire. The soldiers whose names are underlined died on the battlefield.
- On the ground, the inscriptions commemorate more recent events such as the proclamation of the Republic on 4 September 1870, the memory of fallen soldiers during the 1935-1945 war, and the Appeal of 18 June 1940 by General de Gaulle.
The Unknown Soldier
- In 1916, during the First World War, the idea of honoring one soldier to symbolize all those who gave their lives for their country was first put forward.
- The proposition was accepted on 11 November 1918 and the National Assembly decided to inter the remains of an anonymous French soldier in the Pantheon.
- However, veteran’s associations criticized the choice of the site, preferring a tomb that would adequately recognize the sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands of others killed in action. The author Binet-Valmer led a virulent campaign to entomb this Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe.
- On 11 November 1920, a ceremony was held to mark the arrival of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe. He was interred under the arch on 28 January 1921.
- The slab on top bears the inscription ICI REPOSE UN SOLDAT FRANÇAIS MORT POUR LA PATRIE 1914–1918 (“Here lies a French soldier who died for the fatherland 1914–1918”).
- He is decorated with the Military Medal, the War Cross, and the Legion of Honourーthe highest French ceremonial decoration introduced by Napoleon I.
The Memorial Flame
- Two years after interring the Unknown Soldier, journalist and poet Gabriel Boissy launched the idea of a Memorial Flame.
- The eternal flame was first lit on 11 November 1923 by Andre Maginot, Minister for War.
- It is rekindled every day at 18h30 by the association La Flamme sous l’Arc de Triomphe – a group of former combatants.
Arc de Triomphe Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Arc de Triomphe across 27 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Arc de Triomphe worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Arc de Triomphe in Paris which is a monumental triumphal arch located at the western end of the Champs-Élysées at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle, formerly known as the “Place de l’Étoile”. It was built in honor of those who fought for France during the French Revolution, in particular those who fought in the Napoleonic wars.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Arc de Triomphe Facts婆媳过招 婆媳过招 ,逃离克隆岛 逃离克隆岛
- Finding the Arc
- Architecture of Triumph
- A Whole Lot of History
- Who’s Who?
- Perfect Match!
- For the Great Army
- Lighting the Flame
- The Unknown Puzzle
- Trip Around Paris
- Postcard from France
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Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.