Triumphal arch

Triumphal arch

A triumphal arch is a structure in the shape of a monumental archway, in theory built to celebrate a victory in war, actually used to celebrate a ruler. Invented by the Romans, the classical triumphal arch is a free-standing structure, quite separate from city gates or walls, but the form is often used in engaged arches as well. In its simplest form a triumphal arch consists of two massive piers connected by an arch, crowned with a flat superstructure or "attic" on which a statue might be mounted or which bears commemorative inscriptions. The structure should be decorated with carvings, notably including "Victories", winged female figures (very similar to angels), a pair of which typically occupy the curved triangles beside the top of the arch curve. More elaborate triumphal arches have flanking subsidiary archways, typically a pair.

The rhythmic ABA motif—of central arched void flanked by smaller ones—was adapted in Classical architecture, particularly since the Renaissance, to articulate the walls of structures. The voids may take the form of niches or be "blind", with masonry continuous behind.

Roman triumphal arches

The tradition dates back to ancient Rome and is connected to the Senate's custom of granting Roman triumphs. Surprisingly little is known about how the Romans used triumphal arches ; the only ancient author who discussed them was Pliny the Elder, writing in the first century AD. They are not mentioned at all by Vitruvius, the first century BC writer on Roman architecture. Pliny describes them as being honorary monuments of unusual importance, erected to commemorate triumphs. By the second century arches were being erected to commemorate other events, such as the surviving triumphal arch at Ancona, erected by a grateful city to commemorate Trajan's improvements to the harbor.

It is unclear when the Romans first began erecting triumphal arches. They originated some time during the Roman Republican era, during which time three were erected in Rome, the earliest being one to Lucius Stertinius built in 196 BC. These appear to have been temporary structures, and none now survive. Most triumphal arches were built during the Roman Empire. By the fourth century, thirty-six triumphal arches can be traced in Rome. Only five now survive (see list below).

The arches of Rome became increasingly elaborate over the centuries. They were at first very simple symbolic temporary gateways to the city, being built of brick or stone with a semicircular arched heading and hung with trophies of captured arms. Later arches were built of high-quality marble with a large central arch in the middle, its ceiling treated as a barrel vault, and sometimes two smaller ones on each side, adorned with a complete Architectural order, of columns and entablature, enriched with symbolic or narrative bas-reliefs and crowned with bronze statues, often a quadriga. The festive Corinthian order was the usual one.

Post-Roman triumphal arches

Triumphal arches in the Roman style were revived during the Renaissance, when there was a Europe-wide upswelling of interest in the art and architecture of ancient Rome. Between the 15th and 19th century, kings and emperors erected numerous triumphal arches in conscious imitation of the Roman tradition. One of the earliest was the "Aragonese Arch" at the Castel Nuovo in Naples, erected by Alfonso V in 1443, although like the later Porta Capuana this was engaged as part of the entrance to the castle. Temporary examples were erected in enormous numbers for festivities such as Royal Entries from the late Middle Ages onwards. The Emperor Maximilian I commissioned the artist Albrecht Dürer to design an elaborately decorated monumental arch in woodcut for him (3.75 metres high, in 192 different sheets), which was never intended to be built, but was printed in an edition of 700 copies and distributed to be coloured and pasted on the walls of large rooms. Louis XIV of France and Napoleon Bonaparte both erected arches to commemorate their military triumphs, most famously the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Arches were erected for similar purposes in the U.K., the United States, Germany, Romania, Russia and Spain, amongst other countries. Built to honour and glorify President Kim Il Sung and modeled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang is the largest arch in the world. A far larger arch was planned for Berlin by Adolf Hitler and his architect Albert Speer, but construction was never begun.

Temporary triumphal arches are still constructed, intended to be used for a celebratory parade or ceremony and then be dismantled afterwards.

List of triumphal arches

"For Roman ones only, see List of ancient Roman triumphal arches"

Permanent monumental triumphal arches include:


* Timgad, Trajan's Arch, partially restored arch in a Roman colonial town


* Ballarat, Victoria, Arch of Victory


* Heidentor, Roman-arch in Carnuntum
* Siegestor, Innsbruck
* Äußeres Burgtor (Outer Castle Gate), Vienna


* Arch of the Cinquantenaire, Brussels (erected 1880-1905)
* Menin Gate, Ypres


* Radomir


* Guangzhou


* Arch of the Sergii, Pula, Istria


* Princes' Gate, Toronto, Ontario
* Memorial Arch at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario, 1923
* National War Memorial in Ottawa.
* Peace Arch, Blaine, Washington, and Surrey, British Columbia


* Aix-les-Bains
* Besançon
* Carpentras: Arch of Augustus
* Cavaillon
* Die: Porte St. Marcel
* Die: Porte Saint Pierre
* Dijon: Porte Guillaume
* Marseille: Porte d'Aix (1823)
* Montpellier: Porte du Peyrou (1692)
* Nancy: on "Place Stanislas"
* Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange
* Nimes: Porte d'Auguste (Arch of Augustus)
* Paris:
** Arc de Triomphe (1806–1836)
** Arc du Carrousel (1806–1808)
** Grande Arche, La Défense (1982–1989)
** Porte Saint-Denis (1672)
** Porte Saint-Martin (1674)
* Reims: Porte de Mars
* Saint Rémy de Provence: Roman site of Glanum
* Saintes: Arch of Germanicus
* Vienne: quadriportal arch ("the pyramid"), was once in the ancient circus


* Arch 22, Banjul


* The Brandenburg Gate, Berlin contrary to popular belief, is not a triumphal arch.
* Siegestor, Munich (1843–1850)
* Triumphtor, Potsdam
* Mainz: Dativius Victor arch


* Arch of Galerius, Thessaloniki
* Hadrian's Arch, Athens


* Triumphal Arch, Vác


* India Gate, New Delhi
* Gateway of India, Mumbai


* Hands of Victory, Baghdad


* Fusilier's Arch, Dublin


* Rome
** Arch of Constantine, Rome erected 312 - 315
** Arch of Drusus, Rome, erected to honor Nero Claudius Drusus
** Arch of Gallienus, Rome
** Arch of Septimius Severus, Rome, erected 203
** Arch of Titus, Rome (81)
** Arch of Janus, Rome
* Arch of Trajan, Ancona, erected 113
* Augustan Arch, Aosta
* Arch of Trajan, Beneventum, the "Porta Aurea", erected 114
* Arco Campano, Capua
* Arch of Augustus, Fano
* Arch of the House of Lorraine, Florence, erected 1738 - 1759: the first freestanding permanent triumphal arch in Italy since Antiquity
* Arco della Pace, Milan, erected 1807 - 1838
* Triumphal arch of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan
* Arch of Augustus, Rimini, erected AD 27
* Arch of Augustus, Susa, erected 7 BC
* Arco dei Gavi, Verona
* Monumento ai caduti, Genoa
* Arco romano a colle San Giusto, Trieste


* Arch of Tiberius, Leptis Magna, erected 35 AD ["Leptis Magna". Catholic Encyclopedia. (1913). New York: Robert Appleton Company]
* [ Arch of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus] , Oea
* Arch of Septimius Severus, Leptis Magna


* Patuxay, Vientiane


* Triumphal arch, Chişinău.


* Triumphal arch, Volubilis. [ [ C. Michael Hogan, "Volubilis: Ancient settlement in Morocco", The Megalithic Portal, ed. Andy Burnham] ]

North Korea

* Arch of Triumph, Pyongyang


* Arch of the Centuries, located at the University of Santo Tomas
* A (temporary) triumphal arch commemorating Emilio Aguinaldo's election as President of the Philippines in 1899 (see image below)


* Arco do Triunfo, Lisbon ["Atlantic Poets: Fernando Pessoa's Turn in Anglo-American Modernism", Irene Ramalho Santos, Maria Irene Ramalho Sousa Santos]


* Arcul de Triumf, Bucharest


* Red Gate, Moscow - demolished
* Triumphal arch on Poklonnaya Hill, Kutuzovskiy prospekt, Moscow
* Moscow Triumphal Gate, Saint Petersburg
* Narva Triumphal Gate, Saint Petersburg
* Omsk, Tara gate
* Triumphal Arch of the General Staff Building in Palace Square
* Cossack triumphal arches in Novocherkassk
* Orlov gates, Gatchina


* Arco de la Victoria, Madrid. Inaugurated in 1956 after the Spanish civil war (1936-1939) to conmemorate Franco's victory.
* Arc de Triomf, Barcelona, built as the entrance gate for the 1888 Universal Exhibition so it is not, strictly speaking, a triumphal arch as it was not built to commemorate any military victory. Nevertheless, it is built and named as a triumphal arch.

There are many similar monuments in Spain which were originally built as gates in city walls and therefore cannot be considered triumphal arches in any sense except in their resemblance. In Madrid there are the Puerta de Alcalá, [ Puerta de Toledo] , [ Puerta de San Vicente] , Puerta de Hierro, etc.


* Arch of Septimus Severus, Latakia
* Palmyra


* Anazarbus
* Hadrian's Gate
* The Golden Gate in the Yedikules


* Arch of Catherine the Great, Novgorod-Seversky
* Triumphal Arc, Kamianets-Podilskyi

United Kingdom

* Marble Arch, London
* Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, London
*McLennan Arch, Glasgow
*American War of Independence Arch, Parlington Estate, Aberford, Yorkshire

United States

* Monumental Arch, Galveston, Texas (1987-1990)
* Newport News Victory Arch, Newport News, Virginia
* Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch, Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, New York
* Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch, Hartford, Connecticut - The first permanent triumphal arch in the country.
* Tilton Memorial Arch, Tilton, New Hampshire
* The War Correspondents Memorial Arch, Gathland State Park, nr. Burkittsville, Maryland
* Washington Square, New York, New York
* National Memorial Arch, Valley Forge National Historic Park, Valley Forge Pennsylvania
* Rosedale World War I Memorial Arch, Kansas City, KS


* Arco de la Federación, Caracas
* Arco del Triunfo, Valencia
* Arco de la Federación, Coro

Line notes

See also

* City gate
* Roman architecture
* List of ancient Roman triumphal arches
* List of buildings


External links

* [*/Arcus_Triumphalis.html Lacus Curtius website:] "Triumphal arch" from William Smith, "A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities," John Murray, London, 1875
* [ Signa Romanorum:] the Roman monuments website
* [ Parlington Hall website] "Triumphal Arch" built for Sir Thomas Gascoigne to commerorate the American Victory in the War of Independence, Aberford, Yorkshire, England, circa 1783.

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