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Triumphal arches


Arch of Hadrian at Jerash, Jordan, built to honor the visit of emperor Hadrian to Jerash in 129/130 AD.

The triumphal arch is one of the most influential and distinctive types of architecture associated with ancient Rome. Thought to have been invented by the Romans, the triumphal arch was used to commemorate victorious generals or significant public events such as the founding of new colonies, the construction of a road or a bridge, the death of a member of the imperial family or the accession of a new emperor. Since then, the triumphal arch would be incorporated into many architectural elements, a facade, a doorway, or could be found as a stand-alone, triumphal symbolic monument.

"Roman triumphal arches would significantly influence architecture from the 15th century CE. on; 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."

Source: Mark Cartwright, Triumphal Arch definition, Ancient History encyclopedia. Accessed through:



Arch of Titus, Rome, erected in c. 81 CE at the foot of the Palatine hill on the Via Sacra in the Forum Romanum, Rome

One of the most famous surviving triumphal arches from Roman times is the Arch of Titus, which was constructed in 82 A.D. by the Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his older brother Titus, in order to commemorate Titus’ victory in the Sack of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The Arch of Titus has provided the model for many of the triumphal arches erected since the 16th century, including the Arc de Triomphe.

Al mahdiyya entrance.jpg

The Entrance to the Mosque of al Mahdiyya, Mahdiyya, Tunisia, built in 916 CE.

The al-Mahdiyya Mosque presents us with the first instance of a fully conceived facade (in Islamic architecture]. Framed by two towers, the facade is symmetrically composed. At its axis, a triumphal arc forms a monumental entrance. Two additional smaller doors are positioned symmetrically at each side of the entrance. [...] The monumental portal was modeled on the third-century Roman triumphal arch of Pheradi Majus, located 46 km North of Sousse. Lezine indicates that the two structures share two features that can help explain the imitation of the Roman Triumphal arch: first, a horizontal molding divides both structures in two at the base of the arch. Second, there are no engaged columns at the angles of the doorway in either structure. When reporting on al Mahdiyya, the Córdoban geographer Abū Uʿbayd al-Bakrī (11th c.) mentions that it was built of cut stones, a fact remarkable enough to be noticed.

Source: Mohammed Hamdouni Alami, The Origins of Visual Culture in the Islamic Tradition: Aesthetics, Art and Architecture in the Medieval Middle East