Arch… a triumphal exsperience

Triumphal Arch – a monumental archway to commemorate Roman military victories and other significant events.
Arc de T


The triumphal arch was a type of Roman architectural monument built all over the empire to commemorate military triumphs and other significant events such as the accession of a new emperor. Arches were often erected over major thoroughfares and as the structure had no practical function as a building it was often richly decorated with architectural details, sculpture and commemorative inscriptions (often using bronze letters). Celebrated surviving examples of triumphal arches include the Arch of Constantine and the Arch of Septimius Severus, both in Rome.

Arch of Constantine

Arch of Constantine

The earliest  known examples of triumphal arches date from the 2nd century BCE and were set up by L.Sertinius in the Forum Boarium and near the Circus Maximusin Rome in 196 BCE to commemorate his campaigns in Spain. Sometimes arches were used to replace existingcity gates, for example, at Timgad (modern Algeria) in the 2nd century CE, at Antalya (modern Turkey) and at Verulamium in Britain. Arches could also stand across approach roads outside the city proper, for example, at Aosta, Aquino, Canosa and Jerash. At Ancona one triumphal arch even stands in splendid isolation on one of the harbour moles. Many arches were, though, free-standing symbolic monuments protected by steps and so were not accessible to through traffic, for example, the four-way arch of Septimius Severus at Lepcis Magna (c. 200 BCE) and the arches of Tiberius and Titus in Rome.

Arch of Titus

Arch of Titus

Rome alone had over 50 triumphal arches but, unfortunately, most have not survived. Amongst these was the Arch of Augustus which was built in 19 BCE to honour the emperor’s victory over the Parthians. Nevertheless, we do know that the monument had three arches and statues of defeated soldiers. The Arch of Titus (c. 81 CE) does survive and, displaying Titus riding a bronze four-horse chariot (quadriga) and crowned by Victory, it was built to commemorate his victories in Judaea and conquest of Jerusalem in 70-71 CE. Both of these arches stood in the Forum Romanum (Roman Forum). Another surviving arch is the Arch of Septimius Severus built in c. 203 CE, which in fact was also dedicated by the Senate and the People of Rome (S.P.Q.R.) to his sonCaracalla in honour of their victories against the Parthians, relief scenes of which, decorate the arch.

The largest surviving example of the triumphal arch is the Arch of Constantine, built in Rome in c. 315 CE to commemorate the emperor Constantine’s victory over Maxentius in 312 CE. The arch is typical of the genre and presents a huge 20 metre high rectangular block of masonry consisting of three separate arches: one larger central arch with a shorter and narrower arch on either side. All three arches express the same ratio of height and width. Dividing the arches are four detached Corinthian columns, each stood on a pedestal and topped with an entablature. Above the entablature, and as it were extending the columns, stand four pedestals, each carrying a statue. The block or ‘attic’ storey above the arches also presents sculpted panels and an inscription in Latin, a common feature of triumphal arches. Parts of the sculpture were recycled from earlier monuments, notably the panels of the attic which were taken from the Arch of Marcus Aurelius (c. 174 CE) and the inner central arch reliefs which were removed from the Basilica Ulpia in Trajan’s Forum. The eight statues areDacian prisoners and possibly came from the Arch of Domitian. Other panels depict a lion hunt and sacrifices whilst the main frieze scenes commemorate Constantine’s military victories, including the battle with Maxentius.

A.o.C south side

A.o.C south side

Roman triumphal arches would significantly influence architecture from the 15th century CE. In the following centuries, not only was there a revival of the entire form as a commemorative monument (notably Paris’ Arc de Triomphe), but also elements of the triumphal arch were employed in completely different structures such as the facade of Leon Battista Alberti’s Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini and his church of St. Andrea in Mantua whose nave arcades strongly echo ideas taken from the triumphal arch. Perhaps more fundamentally, the narrow-wide-narrow motif of the three arches divided by columns became a widely used form in the revival of classical architecture in the 18th and 19th centuries CE.

A.o.C detail 2

A.o.C detail 2

A.o.C Detail

A.o.C Detail

In terms of Architecture:

The arch may be said to have originated with the idea of placing a considerable number of blocks in a concentric arrangement. The wedge-shaped blocks, called voussoirs, hold each other firmly in place and prevent each other from slipping. The voussoirs at the top, or crown, of the arch convert the downward pressure into lateral (sideways) pressure, or thrust, which is transmitted from the upper voussoirs down around the opening and finally into the ground through the wall or pier on which the arch rests. Not only can considerable distances be spanned in this way, but arches can carry a much heavier load than a horizontal lintel.



In this Sculpture project you are asked to create a ‘propre ach de triumph’ … an arch of triumph dedicated to some event in your life when you felt victorious.


  • An Arch
  • Friezes which tell you story
  • Front, back, top and sides.
  • Must be on a base
  • Designs

We will explore to possibilities of what you can do for this project in class.

Size= This will be a ‘maquette‘  so, small scale.
Material= paper mache, collage, found objects
Detail…. 3D! all sides.
Support= metal book ends

a.d.t d1

a.d.t detal

a.d.t. side

a.d.t. side


Illustrated Glossary of Classical Architecture


ar·chi·tec·ton·ic  (ärk-tk-tnk) also ar·chi·tec·ton·i·cal (--kl)


1. Of or relating to architecture or design.
2. Having qualities, such as design and structure, that are characteristic of architecture: a work of art forming an architectonic whole.
3. Philosophy Of or relating to the scientific systematization of knowledge.

[Latin architectonicusarchitectural, from Greek arkhitektonikos, from arkhitektn,architect; see architect.]

archi·tec·toni·cal·ly adv.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


by Mark Cartwright  published on 31 December 2012

Parts of an Arch


Various types of Arches

types of a




The shape of an Arch may be derive, made, from numerous Geometry constructions.


The classic Gothic arch is known as the quinto acuto or “pointed fifth”. The arcs are 4/5 of the span. The centres of the arcs are inside the span of the arch.


Another classic arch is the recto. Its characteristic is that its height (above the springing points) is equal to its width. This arch was more commonly seen in windows, particularly where narrow recto arches were used as tracery within an overall frame of quinto acuto.

Creative Arches

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