Illustrated Architecture Dictionary

Memorial arch / Triumphal arch

An arch commemorating a person or event.

Triumphal arch: a memorial arch commemorating the return of a victorious army, usually in the line of march during its triumphal procession

Two main types: those with a single archway and those with a large archway flanked by two small archways (triple-arch).

Popular during the Roman Empire, and again during the Italian Renaissance and at the time of Napoleon and later.

It is intriguing to observe how many classical works weave the triumphal arch form into their façades, either the single or triple-arch type. Buildings can be so elaborate or so simple that their triumphal arch motif is not immediately apparent, yet the more we become aware of the phenomenon, the more we see the prevalence of its use.

One of the most literal applications of the triumphal arch form, as well as one of the most admired, is Rome’s Trevi Fountain. Commissioned in 1739 by Pope Clement XII, architect Nicola Salvi gave the earlier Palazzo Poli a new façade to serve as a backdrop for the famous fountain, the theme of which is the taming of the waters. Framed by the central arch, the figure of Oceanus, the personification of all the seas and oceans, is guided over cascading waters in his shell chariot by tritons. With its projecting free-standing columns topped by statues, the façade’s center section closely follows the Arch of Constantine form.

Examples from Buffalo architecture:

Other examples:

Photos and their arrangement © 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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