The classic shape of the arch comes in many forms, all over the world. Some are natural—crafted by millennia of weathering and erosion. Others are left by another reductive process—architectural forms still standing as the buildings around them disappear over time. And still more are of the triumphal sort—built specifically to stand on their own and inspire. All these forms have their own power to captivate the senses with unique symmetry, geometry, and gravity-defiance.
In the waters where the Gulf of California meets the Pacific Ocean stands the Arch of Cabo San Lucas, also known as “El Arco.” Over thousands of years, wind and tide have carved this magnificent arch, now home to both sea lions and mesmerizing views. Across the former Roman Empire, magnificent arches still stand as testaments to Roman power and architectural ingenuity. Perhaps the most well preserved is the Arch of Trajan in Benevento, Italy: 51 feet tall, 1,900 years old, and depicts Trajan’s triumphal procession after the conquest of Dacia, along with other scenes of Roman life. From the world’s largest arch, forgotten for 50 years, to one that hosted sermons to plague victims, here are some of our favorites from around the world.