The Romans invented the triumphal arch, a monumental structure that was used during triumphal processions commemorating a special event. This could be a great victory or the addition of a new province to the Roman Empire.
Because of the vast scale of the Roman Empire and the engineering ability of the people who designed these structures, ancient triumphal arches can be found all across the area that once made up the Roman territory.
Multiple similar structures have been built after the Fall of the Roman Empire, and in this article, you’ll discover some of the most famous arches in France. This list contains both Roman and post-Roman arches.
Related: Check out some of the most famous arches in the world.
1. Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe isn’t just one of the most famous arches in France, it’s one of the most distinctive and best-recognized landmarks in Paris. It was built in the 19th century and stands in the middle of the Place Charles de Gaulle on the western end of the Champs-Élysées.
It’s the central monument of the so-called “Axe Historique” which runs through the historical heart of Paris. Its design was based on the iconic Arch of Titus in Rome although it’s much higher, reaching a height of about 50 meters (164 feet) above the ground below.
2. La Grande Arche
La Grande Arche is officially known as “La Grande Arche de la Défense” and this is a reference to its location in the business district of Paris. It’s the modern counterpart of the Arc de Triomphe and is located on the western end of the Axe Historique in the city.
Although it’s referred to as an arch, it takes on the shape of a huge cube that reaches a height of 110 meters (360 feet). Built between 1985 and 1989, its modern design resembles the famous skyscrapers of the business district in which it’s located and
3. Triumphal Arch of Orange
The Triumphal Arch of Orange is an ancient Roman arch that was presumably built during the reign of the first Roman Emperor Augustus between 27 B.C. and 14 A.D. This means that this structure is over 2,000 years old today and still stands firmly in the French city of Orange.
Orange is located in the southeastern part of the country and it’s believed that it was built to commemorate the soldiers who fought during the Gallic Wars and more specifically the Legio II Augusta. It’s located in the same town as the Roman Theater of Orange, both of which are Unesco World Heritage sites today.
4. Porte de Mars
The Porte de Mars is another ancient Roman triumphal arch located in the city of Reims in the northeast of France. This structure in Reims was built during the first part of the 3rd century A.D. and was the widest Roman arch ever built in the Roman Empire.
It features 3 arched openings and although it only stands 13 meters (42.65 feet) tall, it’s 32 meters (104.98 feet) wide. The structure was named after the Temple of Mars that once stood nearby and an unverified local legend claims that the people of Reims built it to honor the construction of roads to the city by the Romans.
5. Porte d’Aix
The Porte d’Aix is a triumphal arch in the city of Marseille in the south of France. It was initially conceived to commemorate King Louis XVI in honor of the Peace of Paris of 1783, but the ing got his head chopped off less than a decade later so the project was shelved.
It was resumed following the Bourbon restoration and completed between 1825 and 1839. Based on designs of the famous ancient Roman triumphal arches, it marked the entrance to the city from the road from Aix-en-Provence, a city about 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of Marseille.
6. Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel
The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel is sometimes confused with the Arc de Triomphe. That’s mainly because it was built for the same purpose which was to commemorate the victories of Napoleon Bonaparte during the Napoleonic Wars.
It’s located on the Place du Carrousel near the Louvre Museum on the opposite end of the Champs Élysées and was completed between 1806 and 1808. It’s less than half the size of its bigger brother as it only stands 19 meters (63 feet) tall, yet equally renowned for its amazing decorations.
7. Arch of Germanicus
The Arch of Germanicus is an ancient Roman arch that was completed between 18 and 19 A.D. It’s located in the town of Saintes in western France and is remarkable for the fact that it was commissioned by a private citizen in the ancient Roman town of Mediolanum Santonum.
The rich citizen dedicated the arch to the second Roman Emperor Tiberius, his son Drusus Julius Caesar, and his adoptive son Germanicus. This remarkable structure was originally located on the terminus of the road from Lyon to Saintes but was moved about 15 meters (49.21 feet) during construction works in the 19th century.
8. Porte Saint-Denis
The Porte Saint-Denis is located in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, known for being the location of 2 of the city’s main railway stations, the Gard du Nord and the Gare de L’Est. It was built during the early 1670s which means it’s the oldest of the 4 triumphal arches that were built in the city.
It wasn’t built for the same purpose as the Roman triumphal arches, though, because it was an integral part of the so-called “Wall of Charles V.” This wall was built between 1356 and 1383 to protect the city and the Porte Saint-Denis is an arch that replaced this entrance gate of this former city wall.
9. Porte Désilles
The Porte Désilles is also known as the Mémorial Désilles and is located in the French city of Nancy in the northeast of France. It was built between 1782 and 1784, the final decade of the Ancient Régime before the French Revolution started which toppled the monarchy.
The arch was built to commemorate the people from Nancy who died during the American Revolutionary Wars. It had a couple of different names initially, including the Porte Saint-Louis and the Porte Stainville. It was eventually named in honor of André Désilles, a junior French army officer who died during a mutiny in Nancy during the early stages of the revolution.
10. Arch of Campanus
The Arch of Campanus is an ancient Roman monument located in Aix-les-Bains, Savoie, Rhône-Alpes, in the southeast of France. It was erected in the first century A.D. by the first settlers in the city which was renowned for its hot springs.
The monument was erected by a man named Lucius Pompeius Campanus based on the inscription found on it. Regardless of this notion, it’s unclear why the arch was built. Because of its location in the vicinity of the hot springs and the fact that it’s facing them makes historians believe that it served as a city gate.
11. Porte Saint-Martin
The Porte Saint-Martin is the 4th of the famous arches in France that was constructed in Paris. It was completed in 1674, just a few years after the Porte Saint-Denis was completed in the early 1670s, and for the same purpose as well.
This arch is also located in the 10th arrondissement of Paris and was built to replace an old city gate of the destroyed fortifications of Paris. It was commissioned by King Louis XIV to commemorate some of his victories and features a distinctive rusticated design.
12. Porte du Peyrou
The Porte du Pyerou is one of the most amazing landmarks in the wonderful city of Montpellier in southern France. It’s located on the eastern edge of the Jardin de Peyrou, a large park in the center of the city.
This arch was modeled on the Porte Saint-Denis in Paris and was completed in 1693. The arch is clad in distinctive rusticated stones and the writings on the top and the reliefs decorating the arch were added in 1715 to glorify King Louis XIV of France.