Arc de Triomphe: Wrapped!

Several years ago, during a visit to Paris, France, we saw the famous L'Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elysees. (Incidentally, Monique's grandmother was the proprietor of a quaint little dress shop nearby.) This national monument towering 50 meters stands in honor of those who served and died in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars from 1792-1815. It has the names of all the victories and generals inscribed on its outer and inner surfaces. Underneath the structure is a vault that commemorates an Unknown Soldier from World War I. As you could expect, this memorial is a much treasured reminder for the French and a must-see work of art for visiting tourists.

Photo Credit: Sylvan Chervin

This prominent landmark has been the scene of an unusually creative project in these past weeks! All this effort fulfills the dream of a couple of avant-garde artists named Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude, who died in 2020 and 2009 respectively. Since 1961, this married couple had planned to "Wrap the Arc" with their signature fabric draping, but their deaths prevented the dream from being realized.  However, with funding from Christo's original artworks, man-power from his remaining team and with support from the French Center for National Monuments, this "salute to circumstantial beauty" has now been on exhibit since September 18th and will continue through October 3rd.

I find the inventive style of Christo and Jeanne-Claude to be unique in that the artists have taken the setting of this substantial public monument and temporarily transformed it into a "living" work of art that literally touches the senses as it moves with the wind. This memorial is being experienced and appreciated in a refreshingly new way! You can imagine how incredible it is to see and touch something this large draped by 25,000 square meters of silvery-blue colored fabric panels that are secured with 3000 meters of rope. Monique's cousin sent us a picture of a recent night-time viewing of the monument. It appears to be an amazing and beautiful sight!

As I have read around this example of ephemeral art, I thought of something much more lasting and of much greater impact. In John 1:14, we read of John's testimony of the Incarnation, "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (NIV). In a very real sense, God descended from heaven and was "draped" or "wrapped" in human flesh. Nothing has been as consequential for rescuing us from our sin!

I am also reminded of Mark's account of the woman with a chronic medical condition who saw Jesus ministering to a crowd of followers one day. She slipped up behind him and received healing by simply touching His garment. I still get excited every time I read Jesus' reaction, "At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, 'Who touched my clothes?'" You remember how ridiculous this seemed to His disciples that in a crowd He wanted to know who had touched Him! When the woman knew that she had been identified, she came with trembling and fear before the Son of God. The next words spoken by Jesus accompanied her completed miracle, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." (Mark 5:24-34). A lifetime of suffering ended in moment's touch! 

I appreciate unique expressions of art! They stretch my imagination! I wish I could be in Paris to see the Christo exhibit up close even though I know that my family gets nervous whenever I gravitate toward museums at vacation time! Art is fun, but, what really stirs my heart is to think of the power of a living Savior touching the lives of people in need with His healing power! The gospel song summarizes my experience and testimony, "He touched me, oh, He touched me. And oh, the joy that floods my soul! Something happened, and now I know. He touched me and made me whole!" (Bill Gaither, 1963). Yes, what joy!!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent. 



  1. The woman reaching through a crowd is one of my two favorite miracles of our Lord Jesus Christ! That and Simeon, the old man who God promised would see his Messiah! Small in some eyes, but demonstrated the personal nature of our Lord.

    I always tried to be aware of the possibility of someone needing to have 1 on 1 time while a lot of people surrounded me. I prayed that "crowds" would never consume me and that my vocation as a priest would be foremost in my actions.

    Thanks for this reminder.

    John Marler


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