3.9.1. Gates and Arches

The rounded gate (porta) and the arch are a well-known feature throughout the history of architecture. It proves, at the very least, some sort of building skill, which rises up from the simpler  rectangular support structures. The rounded structure, with its radial properties, turns the mind to the idea of a circle (or a wave) and to the cyclic in general. The half-circle evokes a sense of dynamism, which is missing in straight-cornered entrances or windows.

This energetic nature is closely embedded in the imagery of the arch and relates it to a glorious and holy environment, where a wholeness and unity rule. Baldwin SMITH (1956) pointed to ‘the old and persistent identification of the arch form with the apparent curve of heaven’. It gave, according to him, ‘more specific overtones of celestial significance by the impressive spectacles of the Triumphant One being received as the King of Heaven after he had passed through the Triumphal gate.’

The concept of a gate is related to enclosure and therefore, ultimately with a division. The connection of a division with divinity and supremacy (First Quadrant) was well established in the Egyptian culture and fits into a fourfold look (Second Quadrant) of a gate. The gate also heralds the idea of an entrance and is, as such, a token of identity (Third Quadrant). Whereas a (city) wall is part of a defense mechanism, with a static nature and often born in a defensive mood, is a gate just the opposite: it points to the openness, is inviting, gives a passage to the unknown inside (of the city/multitude). Gates and arches could be seen as symbols of the Fourth Quadrant, offering a rendering of the visible invisibility.

The origin of the city-gate idea must be found in the fortifications of Egypt, Palestine and Mesopotamia. The doorway and portal of such enclosures had a special meaning as a ceremonial entrance, used by divine kings. The city gate was often the center of public life (in the Near East) ‘comparable in many ways to the agora and forum of the Greeks and the Romans’ (Baldwin SMITH, 1956). This aspect of multiplicity, with its cyclic undertones in the form of ceremonies, does warrant a further investigation into the phenomenon.

The Egyptians saw in the flanking towers of the pylon at the entrance to their palace-temples the ‘Horizon of Heaven’. At ceremonies, the Egyptian Pharaohs (in particular those of the New Kingdom) traveled across the Golden Gateway, flanked with statues. The soul was supposed to follow a similar road and pass through a series of ‘gates’ in the underworld, represented by various goddesses. The ‘Book of Gates’ is an ancient sacred text, which expressions can be found in many tombs of the New Kingdom, in particular in the period of nearly two hundred years between Horemheb (c. 1319 – 1307 BC.) and Ramses VII (1137 – 1129 BC.).

Babilim, which means in Akkadian ‘Lhas gate of god’, was a small town in the beginning of the second millennium BC. However, the place grew in importance after King Hammurabi (1792 – 1750 BC) seized the adjacent areas. Soon the locality reached historic visibility and became known in Greek as ‘Babylon’. The worship of Marduk, the god of power, war, sex and domination, fitted in the new policy of Hammurabi. The king became, nevertheless, a wise ruler, protecting the poor and supporting the arts. Several examples of monumental gates, with sculptures of human-headed winged lions (Room 6), winged bulls (Room 10) and a winged lion and bull (Room 8) are now in the British Museum in London (fig. 443).


Fig. 443 – This alabaster winged human-headed bull from a doorway in Nimrud is dated from the reign of Assurnasirpal II (883 – 859 BC) and now on display in the British Museum, London.

The city-gate concept in the Near East had a strong correlation with kingdom and holiness. The winged bull (or lion) represented the four Zodiac signs of man, lion, eagle and bull in one creature. This Assyrian astrological four-fold concept entered the Christian consciousness by the Bible books of Ezekiel and the Revelations of St. John.

The symbolism of a guardian creature with a human head, the body of a lion (bull), the wings of an eagle and the feet of a bull (or lion) was a distinct reference to the foursome, which in turn was – in Mesopotamia – related to astrology. The four signa of the Zodiac were chosen as the guardians at the gate. The prophet Ezekiel, who lived in Babylon as a captive, brought the tetradic symbolism within the Christian realm by describing the ‘tetramorph’:

—————  Matthew ————   Man (Angel)  ——————    Homo Nativitas

—————  Mark  —————   Lion (Leo)  ————————   Resurrectio

—————  Luke —————-   Bull (Ox)  ————————-    Vitulus Passio

—————  John  —————-  Eagle (Aquila) ——————-   Ascensio

This message was repeated in the so-called ‘zooia’ in the Revelations of St John. The four Evangelists became the guardians of the four corners of the world, as was recorded in the childhood prayer ‘Now I lay me down to sleep’. The nursery rhyme is a shortened version of an Old English prayer.

—————————        Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

—————————       Bless the bed that I lie on

—————————       Two to foot and two to head

—————————       Four to carry me when I’m dead.

The Victorian excavator Austen Henry Layard reconstructed (in 1849) the Throne Room in the Northwest Palace. He placed the two statues in the middle of the room with a large open ceiling. Researchers of the Hazen Center for Electronic Information made a model of the room with beams closing the ceiling. At the time of the Nebuchadnezzar (Nabuchadnesor) II, at the beginning of the sixth century BC, there were about twelve hundred temples and faults in Babylon. The city was well fortified and each gate was dedicated to a god or goddess. The principal gate was dedicated to the goddess Ishtar and had hundred and fifty figures of dragons and bulls in relief.

It is worthwhile to consider, in view of the recent turmoil in Iraq, that the intervention of relative ‘young’ Western powers in an area with a long established cultural history has its own momentum of drama. Part of the underlying motivation is a complicated interaction of social groups in different stages of a communication process. The Western alliance – which in itself consists of the ‘old’ cultural entity of Europe and the ‘young’ society of the United States – is concerned with its ‘freedom’, meaning the right to think in a higher division frame.

The cultural entity of Europe has reached this level of thinking in a natural process, pursuant to its historical development of two thousand years. The United States are very much at the beginning of their visual development, investigating all types of division thinking. At this moment, they experience the bizarre effects that fighting ‘terrorism’ (forming a front against lower-oppositional thinking) is a blessing for their weapon industry, which in turn provides the money to live in their ‘free’ lives. Most of the ‘Golden Ages’ of the various European countries found their origin in this very principle (of inversion): economies flourished by fighting, often religious inspired, wars in an atmosphere of intolerance.

Graffiti on a wall in Dura Europos (E. Syria) shows the very basic idea of a gate – the Palmyra Gate – as it is embedded in a wall with towers (fig. 444). The city was founded by Seleucos Nicator I (a general of Alexander the Great) in 300 BC. ‘Doura’ means ‘fortress’ or ‘walled city’ and ‘Europos’ was the general’s home in Macedonia. The city was (re)discovered by British troops in 1920, who went out to put down a desert revolt.

Subsequently, the Russian-born American archaeologist M.I. Rostovtzeff (1870 – 1952) recovered the graffiti in 1944, when he carried out excavations in the area. He became well-known for his classical work ‘Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire’ (1926) in which he described the Roman Empire in economical and social terms, rather than in military and/or political events (ROSTOVTZEFF, 1926/1998).


Fig. 444 – This graffiti of a wall and gate in the city of Dura Europos (E. Syria) was discovered by the Russian-American archaeologist Michael Rostovtzeff in 1944. The drawing gives an idea about the basic ingredients for a gate, in this case the Palmyra Gate of Dura Europos, with an archway and towers.

Also from the Middle East, this time from Baouit (Middle Egypt) comes a picture of Saint George and the Dragon under an archway (fig. 445). The latter attribute is added to enhance the importance of the saint as a holy figure. The motif of Saint George is common in Coptic Egypt, possibly because the dragon/crocodile was a favorite animal in the times of the pharaohs. For the old Egyptians, a crocodile was difficult to kill and for the Coptic Christians around the fifth and sixth century AD the animal became a symbol of Evil. Subsequently, the theme of Saint George killing the Dragon became one of the pillars of Christian iconography, which spread right through Christian Western Europe (RASSART-DEBREGH, 1999).

This motif – the fight against Evil – is still a modern concern. Evil should be seen, in a post-Christian interpretation, as any harm done by the name of lower-oppositional division thinking, like flying airplanes in sky-scrapers and blowing up innocent people. However, deeper probing in the psychological setting of people in a quadralectic context leads to the notion that the opposition between Good and Evil is just a (minor) part of the whole communication.

The old-Christian message to refrain from hitting back when harm is done – even if it is to our advantage – gets in the quadralectic communication a new meaning. The reason for not hitting back is not the old motivation of pleasing a god and the expectation of a subsequent reward in an afterlife, but a firm knowledge and experience of the four-fold way of thinking. There is no point to continue a communication in the constraints of lower division thinking, which limits our capabilities as a human being.


Fig. 445 – Saint George is seen here under an arch, adding a visible conformation of his victorious nature when he is involved in the killing the dragon. Tetradic signs are depicted in the first arch. The ‘egg-and-dart’ motive covers the second arch, which must be interpreted as sacrifices (HERSEY, 1988; p. 36).

The above given example comes from Baouit (Middle Egypt). The French archaeologist Jean Clédat (1871 – 1943) headed an archaeological expedition to the Baouit monastery in the years 1901 – 1905.  Part of this building is now on display in the Louvre Museum (BÉNAZETH, 2002).

The Assyrian relief panels from Nineveh (also in the British Museum, London) showed king Ashurbanipal (c. 668 – 627 B.C.) riding a triumphal procession in a two-wheeled chariot. A wheeled vehicle has since been an inextricable element in the victory celebrations. The quadriga (chariot drawn by four horses) – which can be seen, among other things, as a symbolism of the four-fold – has its very origin in those triumphal processions, bringing together the power of the divine and army into a visible symbol.

The triumphal arch has been a useful instrument to express political power. Margaret Ann ZAHO (2004) noted that the origins of the triumphal concept have either religious or a militaristic component. This would mean, in terms of quadralectic thinking, a mental position in either the First or the Third Quadrant. In both cases, there is a tendency towards a form of unity, either spiritual or material.

Zaho traced the triumphal event in the Roman world back to the amalgamation of early Near Eastern military parades and the Greek religious processions, which came together in the Etruscan cultural era. The (Latin) word ‘triumpe’ was originally an exclamation, shouted five times during a victory procession. The Greek word ‘thriambos’ might have entered the Etruscan language at the end of the sixth century B.C. and shifted towards the word ‘triumpe’.

The Triumphal Route in Rome started at the Porta Triumphalis, located in the Campus Martius, northwest of the city center. Then it passed through the Forum Boarium and some of the circuses (Circus Maximus) and theatres. The route circled the Palatine and traversed the Forum Romanum by way of the Via Sacra, passing the temple of Vesta and the Regia, before ending at the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline (MAKIN, 1921; MARSHALL, 2003; ZAHO, 2004; p. 15).

The origin of the triumphal arches might be found in their functional position as gates in the city wall. However, they were subsequently raised to an independent entity as a monument of historical symbolism and power. These characteristics could be placed, from a quadralectic point of view, in the Second and Third Quadrant of a communication. The belief that force can establish order and that a glorification of power offers security are typical results of thoughts rooted in an oppositional framework.

In the heydays of Rome – in the first century AD – there were about twenty triumphal arches in the city of which five now remain (or six, if the Quadrifons of Janus at the Forum Boarium is included):

1. The Arch of Drusus on the Appian Way was the name given since the sixteenth century to a structure, which was part of the Aqua Antoniana aqueduct, which supplied the Baths of Caracalla. The name points to Roman prince Claudius Drusus, who commanded an army against the Raetians in 15 BC and was responsible for the Roman conquest of Germania after 12. He died in 9 after a fall from his horse. The present ‘Arch of Drusus’ was built some two hundred years after this event.

2. The Arch of Titus, at the foot of the Palatine Hill, was constructed in 81 AD by the Roman Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his older brother Titus. It commemorated his conquest of Judea and the Sack of Jerusalem in 70 AD. A marble relief from the interior passageway displays Emperor Titus on a quadriga and another picture visualizes the spoils of the Temple in Jerusalem.

3. The Arch of Septimius Severus, built by the Senate in 207 AD at the end of the Via Sacra (Forum Romanum) in honor of the conquest of the Parthians and Arabians;

4. The Arch of Gallienus was one of the gates of the Servian wall and its original name was Porta Esquilina. The city gate was rebuilt by Emperor Augustus (30 – 14 BC). It was subsequently converted into a triumphal arch during Emperor Gallienus (260 – 268) by a citizen, the equestrian Aurelius Victor.

5. The Arch of Constantine was erected c. 315 AD and commemorates the triumph of Constantine after the battle against Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge in 312 AD. The arch between the Palatine Hill and the Colosseum is the largest of the surviving three-arched  types in Rome, which also include the Arch of Titus and the Arch of Septimus Severus on the nearby Forum Romanum. The decorative elements on the monument were taken from different earlier monuments (spolia). The arch has four detached Corinthian columns on each side, giving the structure a four-fold look, adding a division element to the three-fold of the arches (fig. 446).


Fig. 446 – The triumphal arch of Constantine epitomized the history of the arch. The three-fold (openings) and the fourfold (the columns) are jointed together in the first impression of the structure (drawing by Marten Kuilman).


Photo in: SUMMERSON, John (1983). Die klassische Sprache der Architektur. Vieweg, Braunschweig, Wiesbaden (The Classical Language of Architecture, Thames & Hudson, London). ISBN 3-528-08763-3

Attempts have been made to find geometric patterns – like the Golden Mean – in the dimensions of the various arches, but none of them are convincing. The triumphal arch is essentially an architectonic structure with roots in creative inspiration and in thoughts of power mixed with historical consciousness.

One of the arches dedicated to Emperor Marcus Aurelius was destroyed in the fourth century AD and its reliefs were on display in the Church of Santa Martina al Foro until 1515. Others ended up at the Arch of Constantine, which had many recycled elements (from the time of Trajan and Hadrian).

The Palazzo dei Conservatori in Rome now has a marble panel depicting the Triumph of Marcus Aurelius, c. 176 – 180 AD, riding a quadriga. His son Commodus, which was also on the chariot, was chiseled away at a later date, in an act of damnatio memoriae – most likely because his reign did not fit into the sequences of ‘Good Emperors’. This sequence, which was already known at the beginning of the fourth century, consisted of: Trajan, Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius. Constantine was eager to add himself to this list.

The dual products of war, like victories and defeat, glory and humiliation, freedom and slavery are concepts, which inspired the building of triumphal arches, but for one group of arches this causation might not be appropriate. A kind of rapprochement can be found in the so-called quadrifrons (Latin) or tetrapylon (Greek), a gateway consisting of a group of four pylons. They offer a statement of equality and not superiority. They present, at least in their original form, a form of lightness rather than one of aplomb (fig. 447). Their three-dimensional character adds a distinct element to the gate concepts in comparison to the massive, two-dimensional appearances of the ‘classical’ triumphal arches like those at the Forum Romanum in Rome.


Fig. 447 – The tetrapylon in Palmyra (Syria) is an example of a light, and, in essence, more peaceful approach to the theme of the triumphal arch as part of an architectural infrastructure.

palmyraPhoto: Marten Kuilman (1999).

The tetrapylon was a favorite feature, in particular in the prosperous colonial towns of the Roman Empire after it reached its largest extension in the second century AD. A tetrapylon in Leptis Magna (Lybia) was built by the Roman emperor Trajan (98 – 117 AD) and covered the crossroads of the Cardo and the road to the theater. It can be dated to the years 109 – 110 when Quintus Pomponius Rufus was governor of Africa. Trajan had given the city the rank of colonia some four years earlier and was officially called Colonia Ulpia Traiana Lepcitaniorum.

The four-faced design of the Arch of Trajan, also in Lepcis Magna, was similar to the Arch of Septimus Severus, and was built around 210 AD (fig. 448). On both  inner surfaces of each pylon were three reliefs, making twenty-four in total. A large relief was placed on the entablature over the four entrance passages (TOWNSEND, 1938). The reliefs deal with military subjects, the siege of a walled city and inside the domed porches were four reliefs celebrating the emperor and his family. The (castle) museum of Tripoli (Lybia) displays a selection of the material together with many fine mosaics and statues, which were recovered from other places in Lepcis Magna.


Fig. 448 – A reconstruction of the Tetrapylon of Septimus Severus at Lepcis Magna (Libya) as it must have looked in the first decennium of the third century AD.

The concept of the four-fold triumphal arch was high-lightened in the design of the Tetrakionia at Jerash (Jordan). The ancient city of Jerash (or Gerasa) was one of the more important cities of the Decapolis, a conglomerate of ten cities on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire in what are now Syria, Jordan, Israel and Palestine (KRAELING, 1938). Each of the cities, which were mentioned by the Roman historian Pliny the Elder and by Flavius Josephus, had a certain degree of autonomy. The cities had a calendar (Pompeian Era), which started with the conquest of the Roman general Pompey in 63 BC. The term decapolis and its regional political importance lost its significance after the Roman Emperor Trajan added the province of Arabia to the Roman Empire in the second century AD.

Iain BROWNING (1982) gave in his book ‘Jerash and the Decapolis’ an inspiring illustrated report of the various architectonic features in this town, including a conjectural reconstruction of the South Tetrapylon before the creation of the Circular Piazza (fig. 449). The colonnade consists of well-preserved Corinthian columns, dating from the second century. This type of column was, at that time, regarded to be more elegant and elaborate than the plain contours of the Ionic columns, which featured in the first century when the Forum was created. The outlines of shops, which sold products like ivory, wine, spices or silk of the Orient, are still visible.

When Emperor Hadrian visited the town in 129 – 130 AD he ordered to build a triumphal arch outside the perimeter in the hope that future extension would incorporate the arch into the city walls. The city never reached such outlines and the arch lies now about two kilometers out of town (KRAELING, 1938). An extramural doorway could also be observed at the Temenos Gate in Petra (Jordan) and the Nabatean Gate in Bosra (Syria) (SCHMIDT-COLINET, 1999). Claudia BŰRIG (2002) made a study of the setting and significance of an arch outside the Decapolis-city of Gadara (Umm Qais, Jordan).


Fig. 449 – This reconstruction by Iain Browning (1982) shows the South Tetrapylon in Jerash (Jordan) with a group of four tetrakionia (set of four pillars) before the creation of the Circular Piazza. The tetrapylon has a distinct function to highlight the crossing of the main roads in the town. This type of architectural feature differs from the triumphal arches build for personal reasons of glory.

Ingeborg KADER (1996) described a tetrapylon at the southeastern corner of the town of Latakia (Laodicea, Syria) (fig. 450). The arch was built in honor of Lucius Verus or of  Septimus Severus around 183 AD. (although French researchers tend to give a later date). She concluded that the tetrapylon might have been part of a propylon, (i.e. a gallery) in much the same way as Browning’s reconstruction in Jerash (Gerasa, Jordan) and  the tetrapylon in Lepcis Magna (Lybia).

It seems reasonable to make a distinction between the types of tetrapylon which were part of an urban outlay (such as those in Syria and Jordan) and the monumental type created as Roman emperors to satisfy their vanity. The former must be positioned in a mental frame, which  operates in a field of multiplicity, while the latter is related to the visibility of power and belongs to an environment of oppositional thinking. Any investigation of  four-fold arches (which holds for other tetradic buildings as well) has to take the setting of the architectural structure into account and should recognize the implications of a particular position in a larger setting.


Fig. 450 – A photo-grammatic view of the northern side of the tetrapylon of Latakia (Laodicea, Syria) as given by Ingeborg KADER (1996).

Kader’s comparison of the sizes of the tetrapyla of the various ground plans of tetrapyla and quadrifrontes, erected in the Mediterranean area during the Roman period between the first and fifth century AD, reveals that the general order of these structures lies between ten and twenty meters (fig. 451).

The main distribution of the monumental arches in the Imperial times, i.e. in the Fourth Quadrant of the Roman cultural period (see fig. 88). A relation between the mental state of the rulers and a preference for the four-fold can be suggested, but it has to be noted that the two- and three-fold type of triumphal arches existed at the same time.


Fig. 451 – A comparison of the various ground plans of tetrapyla from the (later) Roman Empire as given by Ingeborg KADER (1996). See Chapter 9, p. 1121 for the locations and time of building of the arches.

An example of the diversity of (division) forms is the Golden Gate in Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey), dating from the time of Theodosius I (378 – 395 AD). This triumphal gate had three entrances of which the middle one was only used by the Emperor. The structure, with a width of sixty-six meters and a height of twenty meters, was probably standing outside the city when Theodosius I drove through it (in 386 and 391 AD) with a chariot drawn by elephants (BARDILL, 1999).

The Golden Gate was later included in the double line of defenses, which were completed during the reign of Theodosius II (408 – 450). An earth-quake destroyed the walls in 447, but Theodosius II ordered the urban prefect Cyrus of Floros to restore the defense structures and there is evidence that this work was done in sixty days, mainly with the help of the demoi or ‘circus factions’ (groups related to the horse races) (SPECK, 1973). Manuel I Comnenos (1143 – 1180), Emperor Isaac II Angelus (1185 – 1195 and again from 1203 to 1204) and Manuel Anemas continued to expand the walls as far as the Golden Horn, the natural harbor of Constantinople.

The Inner Wall was about five meters thick and twelve meters high and strengthened with ninety-six towers. The towers had a square shape, but also a hexagonal or octagonal ground plan is known, like those at Ayvansaray near the Golden Horn. The Outer Wall was approximately three meters thick with its base. Ten gates were positioned in the double line of defense and several gates are still in use today, others are being restored now their historical importance has been realized. The fortifications were often attacked during their history. Major sieges were faced in 616 AD (Persians under Khosran II), 626 (Persians and Avars), 717-718 (Arabs), 813 (Bulgari), 864 and 904 (Russians), 959 (Hungarians), 1043 (Russians again) and 1391 and 1422 (Turks under respectively Beyazid I and Murad II).

The meeting point of the Theodosian land walls and the coastal walls is known today as Yedikule Fortress (Seven Towers Fortress) because four towers were added to the Golden Gate by Theodosius II and three others were erected by sultan Mehmet II (the Conqueror). The complex was used in the late sixteenth century as an Ottoman Treasury and then turned into a prison. The young sultan Osman II was jailed here after his disappointing expedition to Poland and executed in 1622 at the age of seventeen.

The tetrapylon at the ancient Hellenistic city of Aphrodias (in the Meander River basin, hundred and sixty kilometers southeast of Izmir (Turkey) is restored. The ornamental gate was constructed in the middle of the second century AD and is part of a complex, which includes all the features of a Greek-Roman town: the Temple (of Aphrodite), a bouleuterion, a well-preserved stadium, a theater and the (Hadrian) baths. The agora, located between the temple and the acropolis was used as a market, was lined by Ionic porticoes over a length of two hundred meters.

The monumental gate of the agora was positioned at the eastern end of the Portico of Tiberius. Most buildings were severely damaged in earthquakes in the fourth and seventh century, but they still represent today an excellent insight in the thriving capital of the province Lydia. The province has been mentioned earlier as an area where mathematical ideas flourished and found their way in philosophical systems.


Fig. 452 – The Gate of Janus Quadrifrons (Janus with the four faces) in Rome is a rather late example of this type of triumphal arch. Around the four sides run two rows of semicircular niches, forty-eight in all, which used to contain statues. The church of S. Giorgio in Velabro can be seen to the left.


The Arch of Janus marks the line of separation between the Velabrum (marshes) and the Forum Boarium (cattle market) in Rome. The square base of the marble arch is twelve meters wide and its present height is sixteen meters. Originally there might have been a pyramid on top of the arch (PLATNER & ASHBY, 1929).

The tetrapylon is probably the best known of its kind, but certainly not the most beautiful one (fig. 452). Emperor Constantius II constructed the arch of spolia around 365 AD in honour of Constantine. The formal name was the ‘Arcus Divi Constantini’ (Arch of the Devine Constantines) and only got its present name fairly late in history. The name Janus Quirini has been used, as a tribute to the war god Quirinus, who was a double of Mars.

The arch was transformed in the Renaissance period into a fortress by the Frangipane family and a tower was added on top. A drawing by Etienne Du Pérac (1525? – 1604) in his ‘I vestigi dell’antichità di Roma’ (Rome, 1575)  showed structures on top of the arch (fig. 453). This important artist and architect – with a profound knowledge of garden design (Villa d’Este, Tivoli) – also made an engraving, which epitomized the world of oppositional two-fold thinking: ‘Se bene il mondo qui tutto al contrario…’ (around 1560). The engraving gives scenes in which the world is upside down: fishes on land, a wolf keeping sheep a woman wearing arms, a child teaching its masters, a thief hanging the judge, etc.

Giuseppe Vasi (1710 – 1782) was an Italian engraver, who became famous for his vedute (views of Rome), which were published between 1746 and 1761 in ten books. The etching of the Arco di Giano Quadrifronte and the adjacent church of S. Giorgio al Velabro depict empty scenery with a herd of cows and bushes growing on the arch. The Italian artist G.B. Piranesi (1720 – 1778) made shortly thereafter, in 1771, another engraving of the Arch of Janus as a dilapidated building, overgrown by scrubs and surrounded by cattle. He also gave on the engraving a glimpse of the Arcus Argentariorum (Arco degli Argentieri), a little arch erected by the Argentarii (money-changers) and cattle dealers in honor of Emperor Septimus Severus. The additions on the roof of the Arch of Janus were removed in 1827, probably with a part of the original arch as well.


Fig. 453 – The Arch of Janus as seen from the south in a drawing by the French engraver and designer Etienne Du Pérac, around 1575.  The water pipes of the antique underground water system (Cloaca Maxima) were still in use at that time.

The symbolism of the God Janus has been encountered earlier as one of the ‘key’ gods in the Roman pantheon. He was considered to be the ‘god of the gods’ and related to boundaries (gates), which were the result of an act of dividing. He is important – from a quadralectic point of view – because it seemed that the early Romans apparently realized that a ‘division’ is the first act of creation.

The ‘Heidentor’ (Heathen Gate) near the Roman town of Carnuntum, some forty kilometers east of Vienna (Austria) is the last of the ‘staatlicher Repräsentations-architektur’ (MÜLLER, 2003), which is mentioned here. The triumphal arch dated, just like the Janus Quadrifrons in Rome, from the fourth century AD. The structure is situated at the crossing of the so-called ‘Amber Road’ from the north and the ‘Limes Road’ running from east to west along the south bank of the Danube River defense lines. Restorations in the years 1998 – 2001 by the archaeologist Werner Jobst and his team (JOBST, 2001) revealed evidence for the importance of Carnuntum during the reign of Roman Emperor Constantius II (337 – 361), the son of the first Christian emperor, Constantine the Great.


Fig. 454 – The ‘Heidentor’ (Heathen Gate) was a tetrapylon in the Roman town of Carnuntum (east of Vienna, Austria) of which only two towers are still present. Archaeological work by Werner Jobst and others concluded that the pillars were part of a four-some with the pedestal of a statute (of Diana Augusta) in the middle. The towers are exactly lined up to the north.

Carnuntum features a civilian amphitheater, which was built in the second century AD, perhaps under the reign of Emperor Hadrian, when Carnuntum became a municipium. The amphitheater was in use until the fourth century AD. Excavations and restorations, which took place in 1929-1930, revealed altars dedicated to Diana Nemesis, the goddess of fate, protecting gladia-tors and soldiers. The city was the birthplace of Theodoric (the Ostrogoth; 489 – 526), which was mentioned earlier (p. 492) in relation to his octa-gonal mausoleum in Ravenna.

The triumphal arch made a glorious return in the Renaissance. In particular its importance as an iconographic motif to recall the classical past became noteworthy. The triumphal sense appeared in literature and art, with Francesco Petrach (1304 – 1374) and his epic poem ‘I Trionfi’ as the great initiator. The poem consists of a series of six successive allegorical triumphs: Love, Chastity, Death, Fame, Time and Eternity. Petrarch’s model was subsequently used for various literary endeavors and architectural decorations. The triumphal theme benefited from the linear narrative and the many allusions to classical themes.


Fig. 455 – An engraving from Jacques (I) Androüet du Cerceau’s book ‘Fragmenta structurae veteris’ (1551) depicts a collection of ‘classical’ architectural elements.

Margaret ZAHO (2004) pointed out that the emphasis of the ‘triumphal’ theme shifted in the second half of the Quattrocento from the decoration aspects to its dramatic implication, using the motif as an expression of personal power and glory. Alfonso of Aragon, for instance, was depicted during his entry into Naples and Federico III da Montefeltro had his portrait (and that of his wife) backed with triumphal processions (see the reference to his studiolo and portrait in Ch. 3.8. Museums). The intentions shifted later again  when the carnavalesque character became the focus of attention.

The triumphant idea in architecture was set by the French architect Jacques Androuet du Cerceau in his book ‘Livre d’arcs’ in 1549 and two year later he outdid himself in his ‘Fragmenta structurae veteris’ (1551). This illustrated book was a tribute to gates, domes, arches, pillars, and anything emerging from the debris of the past (fig. 455). The triumphal theme was picked up some fifteen years later by the before-mentioned Etienne Du Pérac, who made in the years 1565/1566 a series of engraving for Onufrio Panvinios’ posthumously published treatise on triumph ceremonies (‘De Triompho’, 1571). Later he later also produced engravings on circus games (‘De ludis circensibus’, 1600).

The triumphal arch was, not surprisingly, favored by the ‘Sun King’, Louis XIV of France, who made a great effort during his life (1638 – 1715) to build as much as possible in order to write his name in history. He was a generous spender, became the ‘protector’ of the Académie Française and operated as a patron of the arts. The architect François Blondel (1618 – 1686) designed the Porte St. Denis in the tradition of classical arches (1671/73, fig. 456), after he earlier worked at the triumphal arch of Saintes. Blondel became known as the great theorist of architecture of the eighteenth century and his six-volume book ‘Cours d’Architecture’ (1675) was a hallmark and guideline of the ‘modern’ approach in building.


Fig. 456 – The Porte St-Denis in Paris was depicted by François Blondel (1671/73) and is dedicated to ‘Ludovico Magno’ (Louis the Great, Louis XIV). This illustration is by Gabriel Perelle and given in his book ‘Les Delices de Paris et ses environs ou Recoeuil de vues perspectives des plus beaux monuments de Paris’ (Paris, c. 1680).


Fig. 457 – This proportion scheme of the Porte St. Denis in Paris with the sizes of the various moduli was described by Blondel in his influential book ‘Cours d’architecture’. The numbers 4, 6, 8, 12 and 24 are related to each other in the same way as musical divisions like the octave and the quart.

The proportions of the Porte St. Denis follow a strict scheme, which was given by François Blondel (fig. 457). He divided the front in moduli, which formed a square of 24 x 24 units. This plane was horizontally divided into three parts and vertically into two parts. The lower part is halved (2 x 6) while the upper part is divided by three (3 x 4). This geometric approach may seem rational and logic, but it also had an arbitrary character with no dominance of a particular type of division.

The present Porte St Denis looks, despite its rational-numerological design, like a top-heavy structure, which could hardly match any of its classical-Roman predecessors (and certainly not its source of inspiration, the Arch of Titus, 70 AD). The design was particularly appreciated by the nineteenth-century theoretical architect Auguste Choisy (1841 – 1909). He pointed – in his book ‘Histoire de l’architecture’ (1899) – to the design of the arch as the result of a two- and three-division of a square. His influence, which was part of a ‘structural rationalists’ or ‘positivists’ tradition, spread into the twentieth century and touched an architect like Le Corbusier (ETLIN, 1987).

The attention to the theme of the triumphal arch remained a constant element in the neoclassicist architecture in France, and later in Germany. The French visionary architect Étienne-Louis Boullée (1728 – 1799) takes an important place in the continuation of the theme towards the boundary of the Third and Fourth Quadrant of the European cultural history (1800). ROSENAU (1976) mentioned that ‘Boullée’s triumphal arches are characterized by their unusual depth, which is also found in the equivalent motifs of Gilly’s design for a tomb of Frederick II of Prussia, dated between 1787 and 1797’.

Boullée’s work has a distinct reference to the four-fold, with the square and the circle as the main constituents. Richard ETLIN (1984) described him as an architect who was ‘visionary in the sense that he gave the most complete and, to my mind, the most engaging architectural vision to an eighteenth-century understanding of human mortality’. He further pointed out that Boullée might have been influenced by the landscape garden in England and France and in the treatises on this subject published at the end of the eighteenth century.

It seemed that a book by Jean-Marie  Morel (1728 – 1810) – ‘Theorie des jardins’ (1776) – inspired Boullée as a tribute to ‘the art of architecture’. Etlin stated (p. 115) that ‘unlike Thomson or Morel, though, Boullée did not understand the seasons as truly cyclical. For Boullée, Nature did not bud in spring to flower in summer with a decline in autumn continuing on into winter. Rather, he saw the seasons as a bipolar opposition of life and death’ In other words, Etlin poses Boullée here as a two-fold thinker and not a tetradic thinker. These types of observations are important for any quadralectic-orientated historian, because they underscore the knowledge that the presence of the four-fold does not always automatically mean a quadralectic state of mind.

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin (Germany) and its quadriga are – in their historic setting – a tribute to the emerging four-fold way of thinking at the end of the eighteenth century. The period has often been classified as Neo-Classicistic, meaning a return to the classic principles of the Greek and the Romans, but is generally used in a loose kind of way.

There is, at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century, a new and individual approach to architecture, which could be identified as ‘quadralectic’. A better definition would be: a style responding to an extension of division thinking from the three-fold into the fourfold, taking place around the year 1800. The quadriga on top of the Brandenburg Gate is just a symbol of this widening of thought, which influenced all disciplines of sciences, art and social and political thinking alike.

Ulrike KRENZLIN (1991) described the eventful history of the quadriga on the Brandenburg Gate, which cover the greater part of the nineteenth and twentieth century. Friedrich Wilhelm II (1744 – 1797), the King of Prussia from 1786 to 1797, wanted to build a highly decorated ‘Brandenburg Gate’ as a response to his feelings of power. Therefore, the old Brandenburg Gate had to be demolished and architect Carl Gotthard Langhans (1733 – 1808) and artist Gottfried Schadow (1764 – 1850) were asked to design a monumental gate. This assignment took place in the year of the French Revolution, 1789. The theme of the quadriga would be a ‘Triumph of Peace’, which had a rather utopian undertone in those times of continuous war and political trouble.

The quadriga depicted the goddess Victoria, who leads the four horses (the four directions of the world) to bring peace to Attica. There were even plans to have the quadriga gold-plated, but that did not happen. The brand new Bran-denburg Gate was opened on the 6th of August 1791, but still without the quadriga. The final addition with the four horses and the carriage with Victoria followed towards the end of 1793.

However, its position as a victorious monument did not last long. Emperor Napoleon I (1769 – 1821) beat the Prussian army in the battle near Jena and Auerstadt on the 14th October 1806 and marched into Berlin. The quadriga was taken down by Napoleon’s troops in the autumn of 1806 and carried away early the next year as the spoils of war to France. The dismantled monument made its trip over sea from Hamburg to the French harbor of St. Nicolai and arrived in good order in Paris. There it was re-assembled again and intended to figure in a proposed ‘Museum of European art’. Fortunately, this project (of stolen art) was never realized, because Napoleon’s campaigns ended in defeat.

In the meantime, Victoria and her horses remained in the ‘Musée Napoléon’ for another eight years in obscurity and was finally found by Fieldmarchal Gebhart von Blücher (1742 – 1819), who marched into Paris in April 1814. The well-preserved quadriga was subsequently returned (this time over land by six carts and in fifteen crates) to Berlin in 1814, in a glorious tour along various cities (Liege, Aachen, Düsseldorf and Braunschweig). King Friedrich Wilhelm III and his troops were the first to cross the restored gate in great ceremonial aplomb. Artists like Karl Wilhelm Kolbe depicted the quadriga in its new glory (fig. 458).


Fig. 458 – The quadriga at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin (Germany) in a drawing by Karl Wilhelm Kolbe, just after the parts were returned to Germany from France (1815).

The memorial became again under treat in the November Revolution of 1918 when the top of the Brandenburger Gate was used a stronghold of the government troops. The gate remained a centre of political and social bickering in the early months of 1919 in the so-called ‘Spartakus-aufstand’. Emperor Wilhelm II had to give in power and retreated to Holland in exile. The result for the Brandenburger Gate was a bullet-ridden quadriga, which needed urgent repair. The restoration took place in 1926/1927 by the sculptor and writer Kurt Kluge (1886 – 1940), who was asked to ‘zieht den Karren aus dem Dreck’ (to draw the cart from the dirt).

Even so, the sufferings of the personified ‘Triumph of Peace’ did not stop. The Second World War ended in the spring of 1945 in a destruction of Berlin and the Brandenburger Tor and its quadriga on top were not spared. A direct hit of an artillery grenade tore the goddess Victoria and her peace sign to pieces and two horses were completely destroyed (fig. 459).


Fig. 459 – The damaged quadriga on the Brandenburger Tor as inspected in March 1950. The picture showed that a complete remelting was probably not necessary and that part of the monument could have been saved.

Germany became divided after the war and the Brandenburger Gate became part of the East German territory. The damaged quadriga was taken down in 1950 and – except for a head of one of the horses – ended up in the scrap-yard for recycling.

The Branderburg Gate – now in Eastern Berlin – was restored in July 1958 and a new quadriga, which was recast from its original gypsum templates in Western Berlin, was ready at the same time, despite great political and technical difficulties. Still it lasted two more months and caused some scandal before the last horse found its place on the roof. The Iron Cross and the Prussian eagle never made it to their original places in the hands of Victoria, due to objections of the DDR government. In stead a large flag of the East German Republic was now held in Victoria’s hands (up to the 20th March 1990).

The Berlin Wall (dating from 1961) and the Brandenburg Gate played, finally, a role in the ‘soft revolution’ of 1989/1990, which brought the two territories of Germany together again. The Brandenburg Gate was opened for traffic on the 22nd of December 1989. However, the New Years celebrations of 1989/1990 brought many excited people on to the roof of the building and caused damage to the quadriga. So the quadriga was taken of the roof on the 31st of March 1990 for, once again, a restoration.  The result was replaced in 1991 and has since then truly lived up to its original intentions as a messenger of peace.


Fig. 460 – The Arc de Triomph du Carrousel in Paris, by Charles Percier and Pierre François Fontaine.

The relative small ‘Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel’ is positioned near the Louvre in Paris (fig. 460). The structure was designed by the architects Charles Percier and Pierre François Fontaine, after the Arch of Constantine in Rome (312 – 315) and built between 1806 and 1808. Its roof once had the horses of the San Marco on top, but they were replaced by a new quadriga in 1828. The Monaco-born sculptor François-Joseph Bosio (1769 – 1845) executed the group of Peace (La Paix) riding in a chariot drawn by four horses and guided by two angels.

The (stolen) horses were returned to Venice (JACOFF, 1993) and are now on the western facade of the San Marco Church overlooking the San Marco Square. The Crusaders had stolen the (Venetian) horses, in their turn, some six centuries earlier (see p. 312). They conquered Byzantium in 1204 and shipped the four bronze horses to their home city Venice. In their original setting, they were part of the Hippodrome of Constantinople. Michael Jacoff argues in his book that the horses evoked for believers the metaphor of Christ’s quadriga. The four Evangelists symbolized the four horses drawing Christ’s chariot through the world.

A much more impressive and dominating triumphal arch is L’Arch de Triomphe de l’Etoile, which is situated as a landmark on the main line of sight in Paris. It is the centre point of a star-shaped configuration of twelve radiating avenues (fig. 461). The Champs Elysées is the main axis, connecting the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel  and the Obelisk (from Luxor) on the Place de la Concorde in a straight line to ‘La Grande Arche de la Défense’ in the west.


Fig. 461 – The layout  of a radial pattern of avenues around the Arc de Triomphe (de l’Etoile) was part of a major urban development in Paris in the period between 1853 – 1870.

Napoleon Bonaparte commissioned the ‘Arc de Triomphe’ in 1806, shortly after his victory at Austerlitz and subsequent entrance in Berlin (where he dismantled and took home the quadriga of the Brandenburger Tor). The design, by the French architect Jean François Chalgrin (1739 – 1811), was a pastiche of its Roman equivalents. The proportions were adopted from the Porte St-Denis, built between 1671 – 1674 by Nicolas Blondel (see fig. 456). The ‘Arc de Triomphe’ was not finished until 1836 during the reign of Louis Philippe.

The history of triumphal arches (in France) found in the Grande Arch’ in Paris a modern interpretation of the concept of an arch/gate. The (office) building is situated at the extended sight line, which now includes the three arches (Arc Triomph Carroussel, Arc de Triomph de l’Etoile and the Arc de Triomph de La Defense).

Marc DESSAUCE (2003) gave a vivid description of the ‘L’Arche de La Defense’ in Paris, which was inaugurated in July 1989 (fig. 462). The Danish architect Johann Otto von Spreckelsen (1929 – 1987) had the volume disappear in favor of the ‘cadre’. Dessauce stated that ‘L’Art du volume a disparu, chassé par la mise en scène de la surface en tension’ and saw a development, which ended in ‘la mort de l’architecture’ (the death of architecture).


Fig. 462 – A view from the western side of the Arch de La Defense (Grande Arch) in Paris. The monumental office building is modeled after an arch. Part of the volume of the building (multiplicity of presence) is taken away in favor of a void (encadrement), creating a tension.

This supposed ‘death’ is, indeed, the outcome if the building (and similar buildings) is placed in an oppositional context. L’Arche de La Defense is, however, a modern piece of architecture consisting of an encadred invisibility built up from four elements. Three elements (office spaces) form the cadre and a membrane of glass-fiber fabric hangs in the empty space between the blocks as a cover for the living. The oppositionality between arche versus cadre, profondeur versus surface and repose versus tension/stress, as given by Dessauce, is an artificial one, which only exists in the mind of the beholder (the two-fold thinker).

The idea of a cadre is, in itself, a classical feature, which came to life (again) in the twentieth century. In particular the pillars in front of the Greek and Roman temples acted as an encadrement. Their function was, just like the (triumphal) arches, to open up space in an otherwise solid structure. This creation of ‘emptiness’ is an essential mental move in any communication. The action can be seen in quadralectic terms as a move towards the Second and First Quadrant, where invisible visibilities (of thoughts) and  invisible invisibility (of universality) prevail. Any ‘opening’ in a building – be it a window, doorway, arch or void – has the very function to point to the space behind the volume.

The concept of an architectural void was pioneered in modern times by the American architect Peter van der Meulen Smith. He designed in 1927, as one of the first architects, a house with an ‘open’ wall, which protruded from the rest of the building (fig. 463). The idea of a ‘frame’ became popular later in the (twentieth) century, both in housing design and office buildings, with the Grande Arch in Paris as its tentative highlight.


Fig. 463 – The entrance front of a house on the northern shore of Massachusetts and designed by Peter van der Meulen Smith in 1927. This design is one of the first expressions of the idea of a ‘frame’ in (modern) building. The intention is the creation of (empty) space, which contributes to the overall visual effect. An element of the Fourth Quadrant quality of the ‘labyrinthine’ (the exiting discovery of an endless space) is introduced in this way and add to the enigmatic character of a building.

This chapter on gates and (triumphal) arches will now be concluded, but only after one related architectonic feature is mentioned: the decorational fanlights (or lunette) above the front doors of (Georgian) houses. These half-moon or crescent-shape windows with iron-framed glass are a far reminiscence to arches over gates, and were common in the Georgian (colonial) house style between 1700 and 1830. The inspiration was drawn from the Italian Renaissance and indirectly from ancient Greece and Rome.

The Georgian mansion found in the eighteenth century its way to North America (New England and the Southern colonies) as colonial homes. The style was named after King George I (1660 – 1727) in the early 1700’s and King George III (1760 – 1820) later in the century. A square, symmetrical frontal shape characterized the typical house with a paneled front door at the center. Flattened or real columns were positioned on each side of the door. A filigree fanlight or decorative crown gave the front door an impressive aura (fig. 464). There were five windows across the first floor and four windows at the ground floor. The medium pitched roof had a minimal overhang.


Fig. 464 – The filigree fanlight above the door of Georgian houses in Dublin (Ireland) represents the idea of an arch and adds a distinct cyclic-radial element to the entrance. The influence of the Palladian style and ultimately the classical Roman and Greek past are manifest. The actual number of radials is apparently chosen at random, with no specific reference to a particular division.

A minor research on the subject of the (circular) division of the filigree fan-lights was carried out (by the author, 2007) at a row of Georgian houses at Bedford Square in London (numbers 14 – 23). This beautiful square is situated in the Bloomsbury district, near the British Museum.

A finely crafted eight-division can be seen above the door of number 12, making up a sixteen-division of a full circle (fig. 465, upper left). A simple five-division was found above the door of house number 14, making up a ten-division of the circle. Further along the row of houses are several nine-divisions (eighteen-division of the circle), and a seven-division (fourteen-division of the circle) can be seen at Bloomsbury House at Bedford Square 23. The outcome of this small survey shows that no particular number of division was prominent.


Fig. 465 – Six decorational windows above front doors of Georgian houses are redrawn here to show a division of the full circle. The half-circle fanlights are present at Bedford Square in the Bloomsbury area of London. The houses were built between the years 1775 and 1783, when the neighborhood near the British Museum was developed (see also p. 528). The glorious entrances to the houses are a reminder to some distant, classical past.

The number of spokes in the fanlights varies considerably. Fanlights with a different number of spokes are present in the area, but none seems to dominate. Counting the number is at present a numerological exercise, but further research in other locations and in other periods might lead to more insight in this architectural phenomenon.

The architectonic feature of the (rounded) gate and the (triumphal) arch will remain an intriguing subject to study within the context of a quadralectic outlook. The sense of movement (in a communication) will always be connected with the consciousness of opening up new space and ultimately with the unlocking of the universe. The arch points to this very event in time and place when and where this change becomes visible.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s