On January 28, 1921, 2 1/2 years after the end of the 2nd World War, the body of an unidentified soldier was buried in the center of Arc de Triomphe.
He was chosen at random from among 8 unidentified bodies. Of course, since that date, historians and history buffs have tried, without success, to find out the identity of this soldier..
It is written on his grave: "Ici repose un soldat français mort pour la patrie" (Here lies a French soldier who died for his country).
Two years later, André Maginot, then Minister of War, supported the project to install a "flame of remembrance" which was first lit on November 11, 1923 (Reminder date of the armistice day of November 11, 1918).
To have a close view of the tomb of the unknown soldier, you just have to go under the Arc-de-Triomphe by the tunnel which passes under the Place Charles de Gaulle (one entrance on the Champs Elysées side and one diametrically opposite on the place on Avenue de la Grande Armée), The same tunnel deserves the entrance to the Arc-de-Triomphe visitors.

  • Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, Place Charles de Gaulle, Paris, 75008, France

Open hours

Access to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is never closed, except during the falmme (1/2 hour approx.) or during official military ceremonies.

But access to the Arc de Triomphe is limited

  • From April 1st to September 30th : from 10 am to 11 pm
  • From October 1st to March 31st : 10 to 22h30
  • Attention: last access 45 mn before closing time

Closures: the Arc de Triomphe is closed on January 1st, May 1st, May 8th (morning, military ceremony), July 14th (morning, military ceremony) November 11th (morning, military ceremony) and December 25th.

  • Metro: lines 1, 2, 6 - Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile Station
  • RER: line A, Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile station
  • Bus: lines 22, 30, 31, 52, 73, 92
  • Balabus: Sightseeing tours by the RATP network.
    The Balabus deserts the main sites of the Capital between Gare de Lyon and La Défense. Operates between April and September, on Saturday afternoons and holidays.
    Aimed at those who want to see the different sites of Paris at low cost while admiring the streets during the visit.
    Price: that of a bus ticket (1,70€)

Arc de Triomphe
Place Charles de Gaulle
75008 Paris

Coordinates Latitude Longitude
Sexagesimal (°, ', ") 48° 52′ 26″ N 2° 17′ 42″ E
Degré décimal (GPS) 48.87394 2.29511

To visit and climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe see article on "Arc de Triomphe, Austerlitz battle and the Unknown Soldier"

Description complète

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was mentioned in the first year of the Great War. Many projects to honor the dead were born. Thus, plaques and guest books multiplied. The mention "died for France" was instituted by the law of July 2, 1915. As early as November 1916, François Simon was the first to mention the idea of "opening the doors of the Pantheon to one of the unknown combatants who died bravely". The idea did not really take shape until after the end of the conflict. On September 12, 1919, the Chamber of Deputies finally adopted the proposal to bury "one of the disinherited of death" in the Pantheon, which caused controversy with political ulterior motives. Finally, on November 8, 1920, the Chamber compromised by proposing the Arc de Triomphe as a burial place, which was favorable to the veterans' associations.

Choice of the Unknown Soldier among 8 unknowns who died for France

On November 10, 1920 a soldier was chosen at random from among 8 unidentified bodies by a young soldier (Auguste Thin) of the guard of honor present at the fort of Verdun. Of course, since that date, historians and history buffs have tried unsuccessfully to discover the identity of this soldier, who was otherwise totally unknown to the authorities who chose him.

The seven other remains that were not chosen during the ceremony of November 10, 1920, rest in the military cemetery of Faubourg Pavé, near Verdun, in the "Carré des sept inconnus".

Transport of the Unknown Soldier from Verdun to Paris

The coffin of the Unknown Soldier left Verdun under military escort. It was transported by train to Paris to the Pantheon where the President of the Republic, Alexandre Millerand, gave a speech. The coffin was kept in vigil all night long at the Place Denfert-Rochereau, and the next day, November 11, 1920, it made a solemn entrance under the Arch of Triumph, placed on the artillery extension of a 155 mm canon. The coffin was placed in one of the rooms of the Arc de Triomphe, which had been converted into a chapelle ardente. The burial in the tomb as it is today will take place on January 28, 1921.

Burial of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe on January 28, 1921

The body of an Unidentified Soldier was buried 100 years ago, in the center of Arc de Triomphe January 28, 1921. The ceremony was attended by civil and military authorities, including the Marshals who distinguished themselves in the First World War (Foch, Joffre and Pétain). Also present were the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Henri Jaspar, the British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, and a representative of Portugal. At 8:30 in the morning, the troops presented their weapons. The Minister of War, Louis Barthou, bowed to the coffin and declaimed, "In the name of piously grateful and unanimous France, I salute the Unknown Soldier who died for her."

The flame of remembrance in honor of the dead of the 1st world war

Two years later, André Maginot, then Minister of War, supported the project to install a "flame of remembrance" which was lit for the first time on November 11, 1923 (date of the armistice of November 11, 1918, end of the First World War). Since this date this flame has never been extinguished. It is rekindled every day of the year at 18:30 exactly, by representatives of associations of veterans and victims of war.

The ceremony of the rekindling of the flame is public and takes place every evening in the middle of the population. Every passer-by can attend from the barriers, within the limits of the security measures that can be put in place by the National Police and the military authorities.

How to approach the Unknown Soldier Tomb

To see the tomb of the Unknown Soldier up close, you just have to go under the arches of the Arc de Triomphe through the tunnel that runs under the Place Charles de Gaulle (one entrance on the Champs Elysées side and another diametrically opposite the square), just like visiting the Arc de Triomphe.

It is written on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier : "Here lies a French Soldier who died for his country".


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