On March 17, 1805, Napoleon Bonaparte’s armies conquered northern Italy. Two months later, Napoleon had himself crowned at the Duomo di Milano, taking the title “Emperor of the French and King of Italy.” To commemorate his victory, Napoleon ordered a grand Arco delle Vittorie (Arch of Victory) to be built at the point on the famous Simplon Road where his troops had entered the city. Construction began in 1806 but was discontinued when Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo in 1815.
By that point, Italy had allied with the Austrian Empire to oust Napoleon. Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria resumed work on the monument, dedicating it to the peace that was restored when Napoleon was driven from power. It was completed in 1838 and named the Arch of Peace (l’Arco della Pace). At the time, the Neoclassical monument was topped by an impressive grouping of bronze sculptures, the Chariot of Peace, drawn by six horses, and four Victorias on Horseback. Initially, the chariot and horses faced France, but the Austrian Hapsburgs ordered them to be turned 180 degrees as a symbolic snub to France. Today the Arch of Peace in Milan is one of the symbols of the city.