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Louvre, in full Louvre Museum or French Musée du Louvre, official name Great Louvre or French Grand Louvre, national museum and art gallery of France, housed in part of a large palace in Paris that was built on the right-bank site of the 12th-century fortress of Philip Augustus. It is the world’s most-visited art museum, with a collection that spans work from ancient civilizations to the mid-19th century. In 1546 Francis I, who was a great art collector, had this old castle razed and began to build on its site another royal residence, the Louvre, which was added to by almost every subsequent French monarch. Under Francis I, only a small portion of the present Louvre was completed, under the architect Pierre Lescot. This original section is today the southwestern part of the Cour Carrée. In the 17th century, major additions were made to the building complex by Louis XIII and Louis XIV. Cardinal de Richelieu, the chief minister of Louis XIII, acquired great works of art for the king. Louis XIV and his minister, Cardinal Mazarin, acquired outstanding art collections, including that of Charles I of England. A committee consisting of the architects Claude Perrault and Louis Le Vau and the decorator and painter Charles Le Brun planned that part of the Louvre which is known as the Colonnade. (Read More)
Eiffel Tower, French Tour Eiffel, Parisian landmark that is also a technological masterpiece in building-construction history. When the French government was organizing the International Exposition of 1889 to celebrate the centenary of the French Revolution, a competition was held for designs for a suitable monument. More than 100 plans were submitted, and the Centennial Committee accepted that of the noted bridge engineer Gustave Eiffel. Eiffel’s concept of a 300-metre (984-foot) tower built almost entirely of open-lattice wrought iron aroused amazement, skepticism, and no little opposition on aesthetic grounds. When completed, the tower served as the entrance gateway to the exposition. (Read More)
Arc de Triomphe, in full Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, massive triumphal arch in Paris, France, one of the world’s best-known commemorative monuments. The Arc de Triomphe is an iconic symbol of French national identity and took 30 years to build. The Tour de France bicycle race ends near it each year, and the annual military parade marking July 14—known both as French National Day and Bastille Day—begins its journey at the arch. It stands at the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle (formerly called the Place de l’Étoile), the western terminus of the avenue des Champs-Élysées; just over 1.2 miles (2 km) away, at the eastern terminus, is the Place de la Concorde. Napoleon I commissioned the triumphal arch in 1806—after his great victory at the Battle of Austerlitz (1805)—to celebrate the military achievements of the French armies. The arch, designed by Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin, is 164 feet (50 metres) high and 148 feet (45 metres) wide. It sits in a circular plaza from which 12 grand avenues radiate, forming a star (étoile), which is why it is also called Arch of Triumph of the Star. (Read More)
Notre-Dame de Paris, also called Notre-Dame Cathedral, cathedral church in Paris. It is the most famous of the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages and is distinguished for its size, antiquity, and architectural interest. Notre-Dame Cathedral consists of a choir and apse, a short transept, and a nave flanked by double aisles and square chapels. Its central spire was added during restoration in the 19th century, replacing the original, which had been completely removed in the 18th century because of instability. The interior of the cathedral is 427 by 157 feet (130 by 48 metres) in plan, and the roof is 115 feet (35 metres) high. Two massive early Gothic towers (1210–50) crown the western facade, which is divided into three stories and has its doors adorned with fine early Gothic carvings and surmounted by a row of figures of Old Testament kings. The two towers are 223 feet (68 metres) high; the spires with which they were to be crowned were never added. At the cathedral’s east end, the apse has large clerestory windows (added 1235–70) and is supported by single-arch flying buttresses of the more daring Rayonnant Gothic style, especially notable for their boldness and grace. The cathedral’s three great rose windows alone retain their 13th-century glass. (Read More)