Spanish triumphal arches that will surprise you

Surely you have seen on more than one occasion a triumphal arch of Spain but perhaps you do not relate it to this concept. Although triumphal arches are a Roman invention, many were made under this pretext after the end of their empire. Some were built to honour a victory or ascent to the throne, others represent the history of a city or were erected as civil projects. However, each one of them surprises with its magnificence, turned into emblematic monuments. Which is the Spanish triumphal arch that most catches your attention? 

Arco de Santa María

arch of triumph
Triumphal arch in Spain. Arco de Santa María

This is an example of Spain’s triumphal arch that will leave you breathless. Located in Burgos, the Arco de Santa María was originally one of the twelve entrances to the city in the Middle Ages. It is one of the city’s most emblematic monuments. In this way, it connected the city with the bridge of Santa María with the plaza del Rey San Fernando where the cathedral is located

It was built in the 14th and 15th centuries. The main element in its construction is the white limestone representative of Burgos, from the Hontoria quarries. Its design is reminiscent of a castle, with a spectacular altarpiece in the centre. However, it was renovated between 1536 and 1553 by the visit of the Emperor Charles V on his way to Yuste. 

Conceived as a great triumphal arch, the central part has six statues representing the history and legend of Castile through six characters: the Judges of Castile, Diego Rodriguez Porcelos (founder of the city), Fernan Gonzalez (first independent count of Castile), the Cid Campeador and the Emperor Charles I.

You can access the interior of the Arco de Santa María through a medieval staircase and visit its interior, with more than one treasure.

Arco de Triunfo in Barcelona

Triumphal Arch in Spain. Arco de Triunfo in Barcelona

The Triumphal Arch of Barcelona was built expressly for the 1888 Universal Exhibition held in the city. Thus, it opened the promenade that led to the main entrance of the fair located in Ciutadella Park. It is a triumphal arch of Spain of neo-Mudejar style and made of red brick. An example of the taste for eclecticism and ornamentation typical of Catalan modernism, which was at its height in those years

Unlike other arches of the triumph of Spain that have a military character, this one has a civil nature.  It is also a Cultural Asset of Local Interest.

Puerta de Toledo

Triumphal Arch
Triumphal Arch in Spain. Puerta de Toledo

The Puerta de Toledo is a triumphal arch of Spain located in the La Latina district. From the road to Toledo it is a decorative entrance to Madrid and, with the Toledo Bridge over the Manzanares River, it forms a monumental complex.

This monument was designed in 1813 as a reminder of Joseph Bonaparte‘s ascent to the Spanish throne. However, the French were expelled that same year and the project was halted. Later, with the return of Ferdinand VII the Wishful to power, the monument was resumed. Thus, it would be dedicated to the new monarch and as a celebration of the Spanish victory. 

Antonio López Aguado, the project’s chief architect, used stone and granite from Colmenar to make the neo-Roman style entrance. Finally, the Puerta de Toledo was finished in 1827. It is composed of three arches, a central semicircular arch and two side arches of square structure.

Arco de Medinaceli

Triumphal Arch in Spain. Arco de Medinaceli

The Arco de Medinaceli is located in the town of the same name, in the province of Soria. It is a unique example in Spain of a monumental Roman triumphal arch with three openings. It was built in the first century and has been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest.

Its decoration is simple and, although it is worn, it is understandable due to the geographical location in which it is situated. It is built at almost 1200 metres above sea level on a hill that overlooked the Jalón valley, an area of wind, rain and snow. All this resulted in the deterioration of the mouldings, ashlars and cornices. However, the north and west sides are in a better state of preservation. 

The inscription on the frieze which contained the name of the person to whom this triumphal arch of Spain was dedicated cannot be read, so it was difficult to establish its date of origin. It was first thought to have been erected in Trajan’s time, but it is now believed to have been built in the time of Domitian.

Arch of the Roman Bridge of Alcántara

Triumphal Arch in Spain. Arch of the Roman Bridge of Alcantara

The Roman Bridge of Alcántara, in Cáceres, has been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest. It was established as one of the best examples of Ancient Roman architecture and engineering found on Hispanic soil. On the central pillar, in the centre of the bridge, there is an Arch of Triumph with a span and a height of 13 metres

Despite having been modified on various occasions throughout history, several inscriptions have been preserved. For example, its date of construction as well as a dedication to the Emperor Trajan; erected in his honour in the year 106 AD.

Puerta de Alcalá

Triumphal Arch in Spain. Puerta de Alcalá

This is one of the five old royal entrances to the city of Madrid. Therefore, the Puerta de Alcalá is not a victory arch as such; it is an old entrance to Madrid that is built ceremonially. It is located in the centre of the Plaza de la Independencia and was opened in 1778. Charles III ordered it to be built with the aim of replacing a previous one. Next to the Retiro Park, this monumental gate is a symbol of Madrid. In it converge iconic streets of the capital such as Alcalá, Serrano or Alfonso XII

It consists of two facades with different decorations. On the one hand, on the interior side, the four virtues are represented: Justice, Prudence, Fortitude and Temperance. On the other hand, the outer side has a more elaborate decoration and is presided over by the royal coat of arms. Its name comes from its proximity to the road that led to Alcalá de Henares.

Of neoclassical style and designed by Francesco Sabatini; it was the first to be built in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. It differs from the Puerta de San Vicente and the Puerta de Toledo in that it has five openings and not the usual three.

Arco de la Victoria in Madrid

Triumphal Arch in Spain. Arco de la Victoria in Madrid

The Arco de la Victoria in Madrid is popularly known as Puerta de la Moncloa. It is located at one of the entrances to Madrid, specifically on the road to La Coruña. It stands majestically on its 49 meters high and is decorated with 34 sculptures, shields and inscriptions. At the top, around the Cuadriga de Minerva, there is a beautiful viewpoint that has never been opened to the public.

Text: María Jesús Colombo


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