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Washington Square Arch Vs Arc de Triomphe

Arches around the world are not just structural marvels but stand-alone monuments with profound historical and symbolic significance. 

The Washington Square Arch and Arc de Triomphe are two of these iconic structures on different continents. 

Let’s learn more about the two arches that respect historical events through their artistic and architectural elements

Washington Square Arch

Built to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of George Washington’s inauguration, the Washington Square Arch stands as a triumphal homage to the first U.S. President. 

Designed by the renowned Stanford White, it was unveiled in 1892 with sculptures of Washington by Hermon Atkins MacNeil and Alexander Stirling Calder.

It features representations of Washington as a general and president, surrounded by symbols of wisdom, justice, fame, and valor.

Starting as papier-mâché, it showcases the resilience of Stanford White’s design, ultimately evolving into a permanent marble version.

Discover the enigmatic legends of gangsters and ghosts during this two-hour walking tour, which takes you past famous sites including the Washington Square Arch.

Arc de Triomphe 

Commissioned in 1806 and completed in 1836, the Arc de Triomphe holds the title of the world’s tallest triumphal arch.

The exterior of the Arc de Triomphe serves as a canvas for monumental sculptures by renowned artists, creating a visual narrative of France’s triumphs.

The intricate sculptural groups at its base depict historical milestones like the Departure of the Volunteers of 1792 and the Triumph of 1810. 

As you gaze upward, relive crucial moments from the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era carved into the arch’s facade. 

The walls inside have the names of 660 individuals, including 558 generals, with the fallen heroes memorialized. 

Adorned with allegorical figures and sculpted roses, the Arc de Triomphe is a living canvas narrating France’s rich history with every intricate detail.

Each arch, whether in New York or Paris, proudly stands as evidence of architectural symbolism and the visual language of victory and remembrance.

Washington Square Arch vs Arc de Triomphe: two triumphal arches offering a captivating journey through time and a unique perspective on the cultural narratives of New York and Paris.

See panoramic views of the city of Paris from atop the arch with Arc de Triomphe rooftop tickets
Climb the nearly 300 stairs inside and see permanent exhibitions about the history of the monument. 

Similarities 

The Washington Square Arch and the Arc de Triomphe, despite their geographical and temporal distances, share captivating design similarities with classical traditions. 

Both triumphal arches, although separated by an ocean, were modeled on the same original concept, highlighting victory, heroism, and national pride. 

The Washington Square Triumphal Arch, built to celebrate George Washington’s 100th inauguration, mirrors the Arc de Triomphe, which honors French soldiers from the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. 

The use of natural stone is another shared characteristic, with the Arc de Triomphe featuring limestone Château Landon, while the Washington Arch stands proudly in white Tuckahoe marble. 

Both structures serve as monumental commemorations of significant historical events, incorporating the spirit of nations and paying tribute to those who fought for freedom. 

Also, both Napoleon and Washington passed away before witnessing the completion of their respective symbols of national pride. 

In short, these arches, though rooted in different histories, stand united in their representation of triumph, sacrifice, and the lasting legacy of their nations.

Location 

Both architectural marvels, situated in two different continents, reflect historical significance, becoming enduring symbols of national pride and artistic prowess.

The Washington Square Arch stands proudly at the southern end of Washington Square Park, gracing Manhattan, New York City, at the junction of 5th Ave. 

In contrast, the Arc de Triomphe reigns in the heart of Paris, France. 

Positioned at the western terminus of the Champs-Élysées in the iconic Place Charles de Gaulle, this majestic arch stands at an intersection of 12 avenues. 

Size 

The Washington Square Arch and the Arc de Triomphe, both monumental structures, show clear differences in size. 

The Washington Square Arch, standing at 23 m (77 feet), features piers positioned 9.1 m (30 feet) apart and an arch opening reaching 14 m (47 feet) in height.

In sharp contrast, the Arc de Triomphe unfolds with an impressive overall height of 50 m (164 ft), a width of 45 m (148 ft), and a depth of 22 m (72 ft). 

The massive arched roof of the Arc de Triomphe stands at 29.19 m (95.8 ft) high and 14.62 m (48.0 ft) wide, highlighting the vast scale of this Parisian triumphal arch.

Washington Square Arch vs Arc de Triomphe: Size 
The Arc de Triomphe stands as the world’s tallest triumphal arch in stark contrast to the more intimate build of the Washington Square Arch.

Design 

In terms of design, both arches reflect their respective cultural and historical contexts. 

The Washington Square Arch, envisioned by Stanford White in 1892, takes cues from Roman triumphal arches like the Arch of Titus in Rome. 

Across the ocean in Paris, the Arc de Triomphe, designed by Jean Chalgrin in 1806, embraces Neoclassical principles with a nod to ancient Roman architecture. 

Both arches share a commitment to commemorating historical events through their artistic and architectural elements. 

The Washington Square Arch with great details weaves images of war and peace into its design. 

The Roman triumphal arch design showcases flying figures of winged victories, emphasizing war and peace. 

The sculpted figures, including George Washington as Commander-in-Chief and President, crafted by Hermon A. MacNeil and Alexander Stirling Calder, adorn the arch.

Also, inscribed is a quote by Washington, ‘Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God.’

On the flip side, the Arc de Triomphe boasts a design symbolic of victory and national pride.

The turbulent events of the French Revolution and subsequent wars.

It features sculptural masterpieces by prominent artists like Jean-Pierre Cortot, François Rude, and Antoine Étex. 

The symbolic portrayal of France known as La Marseillaise, depicting the Departure of the Volunteers of 1792, is a highlight.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beneath the arch and shields engraved with French victories in the attic highlight a deep link to military accomplishments.

Inside, the names of generals and major victories also underline the importance of military achievements in France’s history.

While the Washington Square Arch and the Arc de Triomphe differ in scale, location, and historical backdrop, their designs intertwine.

Through classical influences, meticulous symbolism, and a shared dedication to commemorating pivotal events in their nations’ histories. 

Differences 

While both arches draw inspiration from ancient Rome, their unique qualities emerge in the details. 

Washington Square Arch, with its emphasis on George Washington and the ideals of the American nation, expresses a more personalized and patriotic narrative. 

On the other hand, the Arc de Triomphe embodies a broader nationalistic spirit associated with the tumultuous French history.

Arc de Triomphe’s monumental scale and comprehensive inscriptions make it a historical treasury, detailing victories and sacrifices. 

The arc’s four pillars are also adorned with big detailed sculptures representing specific victories and generals.

The Washington Square Arch, though smaller in scale, stands as evidence to the ideals of the American Revolution and the country’s founding principles.

In essence, these arches transcend their physical structures, embodying the ideals and histories of their respective nations. 

While the Washington Square Arch celebrates the birth of a nation and its first president, the Arc de Triomphe serves as a memorial to the resilience and sacrifices of the French people during revolutionary times. 

Each arch, a majestic and enduring monument, tells a story of triumph, remembrance, and the enduring spirit of nations.

A key difference between the two: you can go inside Arc de Triomphe and to the top to see the terrace while the Washington Square Arch inside is off-limits to the public. 

History 

In 1889, local philanthropist William Rhinelander Stewart initiated the history of the Washington Square Arch with a large plaster and wood memorial over Fifth Avenue, north of Washington Square Park. 

The temporary arch, initially erected with $2,765 in contributions from Stewart’s friends, gained immense popularity. 

Its success prompted the raising of additional funds, leading to the construction of the permanent stone arch three years later. 

Architect Stanford White designed the arch, which stands as a testament to communal support and enduring artistry. 

During construction, excavations unearthed human remains, a coffin, and a gravestone dating back to 1803. 

Dedicated in 1895, the arch received two statues of Washington on the north side in 1918. 

However, by the late 20th century, it suffered from extensive graffiti, prompting a thorough cleaning and restoration in 2003–04. 

Today, the Washington Square Arch proudly stands as an unofficial symbol of New York University.

The history of Arc de Triomphe spans decades, witnessing various rulers, wars, and triumphs.

Commissioned by Napoleon I in 1806 to celebrate the triumphs of the French armies, the Arc de Triomphe was completed nearly 30 years later in 1836.

Over the years, the arch has witnessed a diverse array of historical events, from the passage of Napoleon’s remains in 1840 to the solemn interment of Victor Hugo’s body in 1885. 

Notably, it bore witness to both the victorious French troops in 1919 and the invading Germans in 1871. 

The arch’s significance further deepened with the addition of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1920, hosting the first eternal flame in Europe since the fourth century. 

This sacred space altered the trajectory of parades, respecting the tomb and its symbolism, a protocol honored even by the conquering Germans, including Hitler, in 1940.

Learn all about the Arc de Triomphe and the nearby street of Champs-Elysées on a guided walking tour with skip-the-entry

Washington Square Park Arch vs Arc de Triomphe Visitor Information

For visitors eager to explore the Washington Square Park Arch in New York, the park welcomes guests from 6 am to 1 am daily. 

It is located at Washington Square N, New York, NY 10012. Get directions

Visitors to Washington Square Park, approximately 12 million annually, a vibrant mix of tourists and locals immerse themselves in the park’s diverse offerings. 

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Arc de Triomphe attracts around 1.7 million visitors annually, drawn by its historical significance and architectural grandeur. 

Those venturing to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris can plan their visit between 10 am and either 10.30 or 11 pm. 

It is situated at Pl. Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris, France. Get directions

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