La Gloire


View of the Arc de Triomphe at night
View of the Arc de Triomphe at night- Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Napoleon encouraged the construction of various monuments that celebrated the glory of the army’s victories- known as “la gloire“. While this was mainly done to divert the anxiety of the Parisians, the constructions around Paris left an everlasting impression in architectural history. To commemorate the army’s victory at Austerlitz, Napoleon planned the structure of the Vendôme Column and the Arc du Carrousel. The Vendôme Column was enveloped in bronze from the enemy canon at Austerlitz. “It was destroyed by the Commune in 1871 but finally brought down to the ground on May 16, 1894” (Destruction). The Carrousel monument was erected outside the Tuileries Palace. It comprised the famous horses looted from Venice by Napoleon. However, once the horses were returned, he thought the Carrousel was altogether too “mesquin or mediocre”(Horne, 181). This led to the construction of the Arc de Triomphe at the Etoile, which would magnificently capture his power and honor the Grand Armee. Completed in 1836, it continues to illustrate the symbolism Napoleon had in mind in demonstrating the glory of the French army. “In 1840, Napoleon’s last rites included a procession under the arch and later the French and Allied troops marched in huge victory parades under the arch on July 14, 1919 and again on June 18, 1945 in Paris” (Walter). Today, the monument includes “an Unknown Soldier buried under the arch and an eternal flame of remembrance lit since 1920 that commemorates victims of the world wars” (“The Design”). The flame in the bronze bowl is rekindled everyday at 6’o clock in the evening. On Bastille Day and other holidays a French flag is draped from top to bottom, illuminated with red, white and blue searchlights (Walter).

The Emperor also expanded the once narrow streets that led up to the Louvre. Napoleon began executing his plan of converting the Louvre into “Musée Napoléon in 1803 with the help of Vivant Denon” (Horne, 179). It was here that he “established Europe’s biggest art gallery, to provide a permanent home for the many works of art he had stolen from the countries he had conquered and occupied” (Horne, 179). Again, Napoleon’s main concern was to display his victories and keep the general populace amused and captivated by his supremacy. Only the Vendome Column and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel were completed during the Emperor’s lifetime but his works inspired many to finish what he had started. Napoleon is well known for his military conquests but his influence and contribution to the world of architecture can be seen through his various projects.

To learn more about Napoleon’s contributions click here.

-Rhea Lobo

1. Horne, Alistair. Seven Ages of Paris. New York: Vintage Books, 2004. Print.

2. “The Design.” Web log post. The Design. Arc De Triomphe, Paris, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <>.

3. Walter, Don. “Arch De Triomphe: Paris’ Symbol of Patriotism.” Most Read. Stars and Stripes, 28 Aug. 1958. Web. 02 Dec. 2013. <>.

4. “Destruction of the Vendome Column.” The Star [Canterbury] 10 Nov. 1894: 3. Paperspast. Christchurch Star-sun. Web. 02 Dec. 2013.



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