1. Charles Ribart planned to build a structure shaped like a giant elephant, complete with furniture which tucked away and a truck for drainage, to be located on the future site of the Arc de Triomphe. However, the French government denied him a permit.
2. Commissioned by Napoleon after the French Army's victory at Austerlitz, the Arc de Triomphe has the names of major victories during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars inscribed in its walls as well as over 500 generals.
Photo courtesy wikimedia.org.
3. Napoleon never did see the arch, passing away 15 years before its 1836 completion. However, his body did pass under the arch on its way to its final resting place in 1840.
4. Standing 164 feet high and 148 feet wide, the Arc de Triomphe was the biggest arch in the world until 1982 when North Koreans built one slightly taller.
5. A few weeks after World War I ended, Charles Godefroy flew his fighter plane through the arch in honour of France's fallen airmen.
Photo courtesy 24.mediatumblr.com.
6. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was established under the Arc de Triomphe on November 10, 1920. President and Jacqueline Kennedy visited the tomb in 1961. Jackie was so impressed that she had an eternal frame erected over her husband's gravesite when he died in 1963.
7. During the Battle of Verdun, a sword carried by the symbolic French warrior at the Arc de Triomphe was snapped off. Some considered this to be a bad omen. In the end, nine French villages were destroyed and a quarter of a million people died.
8. Two failed assassination attempts were made at the Arc de Triomphe, one involving Charles DeGaulle and one involving Jacques Chirac (2002).
9. While the Arc de Triomphe represents victory, it has seen two defeats, one when Prussian troops marched under it after the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, and one when Nazi troops first occupied Paris in 1940.
Photo courtesy learnnc.org.
10. The Arc de Triomphe had not been cleaned since the mid-1960's and was looking rather dirty. Another cleaning was scheduled for 2011.