British Museum blog

Description of the Arches

Shakespeare’s Restless World is currently being broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Today’s episode London Becomes Rome looks at the grand and theatrical coronation of King James I.


Ruth Levis, British Museum

The illustrations of the triumphal arches featured in today’s programme were published in a book, The Arches of Triumph, ‘invented and published’ by Stephen Harrison, the man behind the arches’ creation. Here is his description that accompanied The Temple of Janus (the Roman god of beginnings and transitions), the final arch in the procession.

The Temple of Janus. © Trustees of the British Museum

The seventh and last Pegme (within the Citie) was erected at Temple-barre [Temple Bar], beeing adioyned close to the Gate: The Building was in all points like a Temple, and dedicated to Janus Quadrifrons.

Beneath that Foure-fac’d head of Janus was advancd the Armes of the Kingdome, with the Supporters cut out to the life: from whence being remoude they now are placed in the Guild Hall.

The wals and gates of this Temple were brasse; the Pillars silver, their Capitals and Bases gold: All the Frontispice (downeward from those Armes) was beutified and supported by twelve rich Columnes, of which the foure lowermost, being great Corinthian pillers, stood upon two large Pedestals, with a faire Vaux over them in stead of Architriue, Frieze and Cornice.

Above them, eight Columnes more, were likewise set, two and two upon a large Pedestall; for as our worke began (for his Maiesties entrance) with Rusticke, so did wee thinke it fit, that this out Temple, should end with the most famous Columne, whose beauty and goodlinesse is derived both from the Tuscane, Doricke, Ionicke and Corinthian, and received his full perfection from Titus Vespasin, who advanced it to the highest place of dignitie his Arch Triumphall, and (by reason that the beauties of it were a mixture taken from the rest) he gave it the name of Composita or Italica: within the Temple stood an Altar, with burning Incese upon it, before which a Flamin appears, and to the Flamin comes the Genius of the City.

The principall person in this Temple, was Peace. At her feete lay Warre groueling. At her right hand stood Wealth. On the same hand likewise, but somewhat remote, and in a Cant by her selfe, Quiet was seated, the first hand maide of Peace, whose feete stood vpon Tumult. On the left hand (at the former distance) Liberty the second hand-maide of Peace had her place, at whose feete Seruitude lay subiected. Beneath these (on distinct degrees) sate two other hand maides of Peace, Safey and Felicity, Safety trampling upon Danger and Felcity upon Unhappinesse. Genius and Flamin spake thus much.

Shakespeare’s Restless World is on BBC Radio 4
from 16 April to 11 May, at 13.45 and 19.45 weekdays.

Listen to today’s programme London Becomes Rome

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