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 You will return home under arches of triumph, Napoleon promised his soldiers after his greatest victory in Austerlitz, 1805. The Arch of Triumph located in Paris was initiated a year later by architect Jean Chalgrin, but not finished until 1836 (by Luis Felipe). The arch is the large "doorway" located in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle. Twelve avenues radiate out from the monument.

The arch measures 50 meters in height and is rectangular in shape. It has a large portal through its center sheltering the grave of the "unknown soldier", the first French casualty of WWI. Smaller portals are located on the sides. A frieze winds its way along the top of the monument and portrays Napoleonís French soldiers going to and coming back from the his new conquests. Above the frieze, a narrow band around the top of the structure displays 30 shields naming Napoleonís victories in Europe and Africa. Battle scenes are carved in relief into the arch portraying the victories at Austerlitz and Aboukir.

A relief on right of the facade depicts the funeral procession of general Marceau, who died in a battle against the Austrians in 1796. Two large sculptures decorate the front of the monument. To the left of the door, the sculpture by J.P. Cortot "The Triumph of Napoleon", celebrates the Treaty of Vienna in 1810. The statue on the right is "The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792". This work portrays the citizens who shared in the nationís defense, sculpted by FranÁois Rude.

The monumentís long history includes such interesting events as the display of Victor Hugoís body under its shadow in 1885 and Napoleonís own wedding parade in 1810. The wedding procession (done to impress his second wife, Maria Luisa) actually passed below a mock-up of the unfinished arch. The fall of Napoleon in 1815 halted construction of the arch. The monument provided both the doorway for the victory parade of the allies after WWI in 1919 and the center for the celebration of Parisí liberation in 1944. Napoleonís own body passed beneath the arch in 1840, during his funeral procession.

The monument offers an observation platform on the top, which permits a view of Parisí sights. It also houses a museum on the interior. At the museumís entrance, at the archís side, there is a list of the Napoleons imperial officers.

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