Arches From Around the World

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Arch of Constantine, 315 AD

Triumphal Arch of Constantine next to the Roman colosseum in Rome
Triumphal Arch of Constantine next to the Roman colosseum in Rome. Photo by Patricia Fenn Gallery/Moment Collection/Getty Images

Triumphal arches are a Roman invention in design and purpose. The Greeks knew how to build arched openings within squared buildings, but the Romans borrowed this style to create giant monuments to successful warriors. Of the three remaining arches in Rome, the Arch of Constantine is the largest and most copied throughout the world.

About the Arch of Constantine:

Built: 315 AD
Style: Corinthian
Triumph: Emperor Constantine's victory over Maxentius in 312 AD at the Battle of Milvian Bridge
Location: Near the Colosseum in Rome, Italy

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Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, Paris, France

Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France
Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France. Photo by Skip Nall/Photodisc Collection/Getty Images

Commissioned by Napoléon I to commemorate his military conquests, the Arc de Triomphe is the world's largest triumphal arch. Architect Jean François Thérèse Chalgrin's creation is twice the size of the ancient Roman Arch of Constantine after which it is modeled. Work on the Arc stopped when Napoléon was defeated in 1814, but started up again in 1833 in the name of King Louis-Philippe I, who dedicated it to the glory of the French armed forces. Guillaume Abel Blouet completed the Arc based on Chalgrin's design and is the architect actually credited on the monument itself.

An emblem of French patriotism, the Arc de Triomphe is engraved with the names of war victories and 558 generals (those who died at war are underlined). An Unknown Soldier buried under the arch and an eternal flame of remembrance lit since 1920 commemorate victims of the world wars. On national holidays like Armistice Day and Bastille Day, the decorated Arc de Triomphe features at the beginning or end of a parade or other celebration.

Each of the Arc's pillars is adorned with one of four large sculptural reliefs: The Departure of the Volunteers in 1792 (aka La Marseillaise) by François Rude; Napoléon's Triumph of 1810 by Cortot; and Resistance of 1814 and Peace of 1815, both by Etex. The simple design and immense size of the Arc de Triomphe are typical of late 18th-century romantic neoclassicism.

About the Arc de Triomphe:

Built: 1806-1836
Style: Neo-classical
Architects: Jean François Thérèse Chalgrin and Guillaume Abel Blouet
Triumph: Napoléon ordered its construction to honor his invincible Grande Armee
Location: Paris, France

Source: [accessed March 23, 2015]

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Patuxai Victory Gate, Vientiane, Laos

Patuxai Victory Gate, Vientiane, Laos
Patuxai Victory Gate, Vientiane, Laos. Photo by Matthew Williams-Ellis/Robert Harding World Imagery Coll./Getty Images (crop)

Patuxai is a combination of Sanskrit words: patu (gate) and jaya (victory). It is a triumphal war monument in Vientiane, Laos that is modeled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris—a somewhat ironic move considering the Laotian war for independence was against France in 1954.

The arch was built between 1957 and 1968 and reportedly paid for by the United States. It's been said that the cement was supposed to build an airport for the new nation.

Source: Patuxai Victory Monument in Vientiane, Asia Web Direct (HK) Limited,; Laos profile - timeline, BBC [accessed March 23, 2015]

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Arch of Triumph, Pyongyang, North Korea

Arch of Triumph, Pyongyang, North Korea
Arch of Triumph, Pyongyang, North Korea. Photo by Mark Harris/The Image Bank Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

The Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang, North Korea was, too, modeled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, but the citizenry will be the first to point out that the North Korean triumphal arch is bit taller than its western counterpart. Built in 1982, the Pyongyang arch looks a tad like a Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie House with that tremendous overhang.

This arch commemorates Kim Il Sung's victory over Japanese domination from 1925 to 1945.

Source: Triumphal Arch, Pyongyang, Korea, North, Asian Historical Architecture at [accessed March 23, 2-015]

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Craven, Jackie. "Arches From Around the World." ThoughtCo, Feb. 25, 2017, Craven, Jackie. (2017, February 25). Arches From Around the World. Retrieved from Craven, Jackie. "Arches From Around the World." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 23, 2018).