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ARCH 3605 Prof. Mark Cruvellier 12/11/2010

Cyclic Notions in the West: A Closer Look at the Bridge in the Middle Ages By Hugo Lemes


Intrroductio on In poopular culture,, at least in to oday’s ‘fantasy world’, the bridge is ofteen found as p part of an alleegory or featuures meta aphysical quallities, or aspects transcendiing its utilitarian notion as a connector oof paths acrosss obstacles. Recent mples are to be b found in Ha arry Potter, with the Tale off the Three Broothers (Fig. 2)) in which perssonified Deatth is defied exam whenn three brothe ers build a bridge across a treacherous river, r in the fi lms Bridge to Terabithia annd inTolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (the setting for the due el between thhe demon Balrrog and the m mage Gandallf) (Fig. 1), annd so on. This association of thee bridge with a moral message or with deeper, sacre ed, supernatu ral, superhum man characteristics is not neew, and actua ally goes backk to very anciient times. It iss also importa ant to note tha at this is not eexclusive to thee West. Fig. 1

Fig. 2

According to resea arch on Chinesse bridges connducted by Roonald Knapp,, The Zhhaozhou Bridg ge, the oldestt bridge in Chhina (still stand ding) and the oldestt spandrel briidge in the woorld, was legeendarily built by Lu Ban and te ested by eighht immortals w who wished to check the quality of the work by traversing g simultaneoussly over the sttructure. Its builder, who g that the brid dge would later became the s aint of carpenters, fearing pse, jumped innto the water to support the structure ass the gods collap crosse ed. This scene can be found d in wood blocks throughouut northern China. (Fig. 3)

Fig. 3: Zhaozhou Z Bridgge


Cyclical Notions in the West The scholarly observation of western bridges suggests that the very notion of the bridge has changed cyclically because of key historic events, from periods in which it is secularized, to periods of mystification, correlating to the respective high and low points of engineering aptitude. Or, namely, Roman engineering > medieval engineering > modern engineering. Like most of the present engineers, the Romans very much saw the bridge as serving mostly utilitarian purposes, with minimal links with the metaphysical realm. Then, in the Middle Ages, bridges became highly connected with culture and religion largely because monasteries were the sole possessors of engineering knowledge. In the twelfth century, Benedictine monks formed the powerful order called The Brothers of the Bridge (frates pontifices) in order to build bridges and hospices for the assistance of travelers at important farriers and river crossings. From this period we find new emergent typologies, such as bridge chapels, dedications of bridges to various saints, as well as fascinating legends associated with the construction process and motivations. In the Renaissance, bridges started to become secular again, as demystification happened leading up to the Age of Reason – although the cultural-religious associations still remained very strong. These cyclical periods have not only been marked by varying levels of technology and artistic expression, but also by characteristic living and working styles. According to William Watson (1927), positive characteristics that seem to exist in low-tech epochs, such as freedom and community, are lost in high-tech periods, further distinguishing these recurring epochs from each other: Following the fall of the Roman Empire and the decay of Roman Civilization, engineering skill sank to a comparatively low level, and throughout the Middle Ages continued to be almost non-existent. On the other hand, slavery disappeared and such structures as were erected were the work of free men [freemasons], a notable characteristic of the period being the development of the craftsmen’s guilds, which gradually became powerful organizations [frates pontifices and the companionnages/freemasons]*1

Since the modern phase shares a somewhat similar high-tech life-style with the ancient Roman phase, it is the goal of this research to look at the Middle Ages for evidences in which the low-tech, superstitious, metaphysical, are expressed architecturally, motivationally, or as a post-facto phenomenon in bridge design, while, at the same time, to highlight relevant historic points and developments. This should offer some background into the potential mindset that prevailed in the Middle Ages regarding the meaning of the bridge, and perhaps further provide a stronger basis to say whether the lack of technology in this period actually produced more negative or more positive results.

Church and Ancient Esoteric Associations Bridges in the Middle Ages, believed to be have been under divine protection, had a direct connection with the Roman Catholic Church both organizationally and spiritually. In the same way that our modern highways depend on tolls and an organizational body for their operation, the bridges of the Middle Ages relied on the Catholic Church for indulgences and operation. Funds for bridge maintenance were raised through ‘pontage’ grants that allowed for the exaction of tolls on anyone crossing a bridge. However, such practice ended after the European Reformation started to take control, particularly in England. Indulgences were abolished, as well as other ‘superstitious uses’. (Cook) Etymological research shows that a connection to the church goes beyond the ‘business’ relationship, and that the word bridge (pons), for example, seems to originate from an ancient Umbrian word (puntes), associated with religious rites involving sacrifices. Moreover, there appears to be a priestly link to bridges when one translates the pope’s title: Pontifex Maximus, or ‘Greatest Bridge Maker’, from the latin words pons+ facere + maximum. Boyer, however, proposes that the way people looked at the bridge in the Middle Ages was more allegorical than romantic, and that it is a misconception to link the title of the pope to bridge-making. Perhaps then, the legends concerning the involvement of the devil and divine interventions that popularly occur in bridge building during this period are likewise not to be taken literally, and instead, to be understood as moral teachings, even though there are many grounds for debate regarding this proposition. Again, such close connection to the church and religion was particular of the Middle Ages in western society, since both in modern and Roman times there is/was a minimal link between religion and bridges. For instance, Romans did not have the same notion held in medieval times that the bridge had a divine overseer. Rather, they thought that the spirit of the stream 2

did nnot favor those e crossing it via v a bridge or o a ford. How wever, one miight say that tthere was som me level of superstition in ancieent Rome when considering that Romans thought it wa as wise to throow a coin upon traversing a body of wa ater. Historic data supportive of this practice e can be found d in ancient siites such as th e Old Londonn Bridge, and the modern p practice of throw wing coins into o fountains whhile making a wish seems to o stem from thhis ancient acttivity.

Heermitage e at Cro ossings Durinng the Middle Ages it was customary c forr Hermits and holy men to hhelp travelerss cross treacheerous river crossings or fordss , as traveling g was extremely dangerouus. Legendarilly, the most fa amous Hermit is St. Christop pher, who carrried a mysteerious child that became he eavier and he eavier as it wa as taken acrooss the river. TThis child reveealed himself tto Christopher (‘Chriist bearer’) ass Christ. (Cookk) The rrelationship be etween Hermits and river crossings c appe eared to be vvery strong, a and remained important evven after the erecttion of a bridg ge. Jervoise’s observation of the Dee Brridge (Fig. 4),, in Chester deemonstrates such happening: It seems strang ge that such an imp portant bridge shouuld have had no cha apel, but there is noo record of one in connection with thee present bridge. Thhere is, however, an n entry in the Littchfield Episcopal Registers R recording that in 1365 Bisho op Robert de Strettoon issued a license “to the Hermit at thhe end of the Bridg ge of the town of Chester, for his oratory there, fo or two years.” A furrther license was grranted to “Friar Johhn, hermit,” in 1347 7, also for two yeaars.

Fig. 4: Dee D Bridge, Chesster

At Biiddenham Brridge, anothe er English brridge, this po ost-facto, ling gering concern for the weellfare of tra avelers is also displayed. Cook C notes that, in 1295 5, a ‘chantry of Biddenha am Bridge’ w was created ffor the safetty of traveelers who we ere endange ered by robb bers or band dits. It was allso customaryy for many b bridge chapels to featuure four or five o’clock masses m in ord der for travelers to be ab ble to attend d service beffore parting.. These massses were kno own as celebrations calle ed ‘chantries of morrow-m mass’. (Cook)) 3

Divvine and d Devil Intervenntions Wesstern bridge medieval fo olklore is bothh replete witth fantastic ttales and allegories rega arding divinee intervention and motives (Boy yer), and, ve ery interestingly, allegoriical or actua al involvemennts of the ‘deevil’ in the build ding process.. (Watson annd Boyer) Taless of Devil’s Bridges B are very v similar in nature throughout Euroope, often inncluding somee form of lifee sacrifice, the cconsequentia al interventionn of the devil in constructting the brid dge overnighht, or an indirrect facilitatiion in the geneeral building process. In these t stories,, it is usually the case tha at the buildeers resort to ssuch extremee measures (as ccommitting ass sacrifice to o the devil) when w they are e surmounted d by difficulties in the deesign, such as structural prob blems. A lege end from Turrkey, recorde ed by Sir Ma ark Sykes in “Dar Ullsam m”, exemplifies such tradiition: Many years ago a workmen unde er their masters we ere set to build the bridge; three timees the bridge fell, and the workmen said ‘The Bridge nneeds a life,’ and the master saw a beautiful girl accompanied by a bitch and her puppies and he said,, ‘We will give thee first life that comees by,’ but the dog g and her puppies held back, so the girl was built alive into the bridg ge and only her ha and with a gold brracelet upon it wass left outside.

The ffollowing ob bservation fro om Boyer reinforces the real or alleg gorical prem mises behind tthese tales, a and adds moree details abo out how the builders b were able to ‘esscape’ or honor their paccts, which va aries in form in every legend: The legends tell the story of buiilders so overcome e by the magnitude e of their task that they succumb to d despair and sell theeir souls to the devvil in exchange for aid in comple eting the bridge. Invariably the work progresses marve elously with the colllaboration of the d devil, but the devicce by which the buuilder in the end escapes his pact with the devil varies v from tale to tale. At Pont Ecum mant in the Alps, sinnce the agreementt provided that thee devil should be p privileged to fly away with the e first living thing to t cross the span, thhe builder arrange ed so that this shouuld be a dog. At thhe Pont Valentré (C Cahors, France) thee legend states that the devil contracted to carrry out successfully all the orders of thhe mason. Accordinngly, when the brid dge is all but built,, the latter assigns to him an impossible tassk, that of carrying g water in a sieve. (Fig. 5)

Fig. 5: Pont Valentré, V Cahorss, France


The b barbaric nottion of life-sa acrifice is very difficult fo or modern m minds to fathoom, and in oorder to huma anize these taless, scholars ha ave proposed d other alterrnative expla anations to the very nom menclature giiven to these bridges, such as another proposition p relating r to thheir design. Architecturall A ly, most deviil bridges feature extrem mely narrow overpasses lackinng parapetss (as we see in Tolkien’s bridge). b Som me also featuure steep, ladder-like ap pproaches, implyying that the e popular asssociation with the devil could c also bee linked with the difficultyy of access, and in the risk oof death upo on crossing. The T anti-life, anti-human characteristiics of these b bridges seem m to have thuus very muchh influeenced in the way people e generally credited c the devil for theeir existence,, and therefoore possibly led to these e structures being named n afterr a most male eficent being g.

Fig. 6: 6 Devil’s Bridgee over the Serchiio at Lucca, Italy y

e Devil’s Brid dge over the Serchio at Lucca L (Fig. 6)), Italy, built in 1,000 A.D D., features a main span For eexample, the of 12 20 feet, fourr flanking sp pans, and a mere m overpa ass width of 9 9.6 feet. It iss also interessting to note that this bridg ge is too stee ep for vehiclles, and thatt it has lasted d a very long g time becauuse of the ‘unnusually’ goood mortar used in its construuction and itss rock foundation. One could then in summary say that in add dition to beinng treaccherous, this bridge is alsso long-lastinng, and in a metaphorica al way, ‘imm mortal’ due too its structura al integrity and material qua ality. In other words, suchh ‘immortality y’, in the pop pular consennsus, seems too suggest a ssomewhat ‘supeerhuman’ orig gin and existence – a ‘suuper’ persona or soul.


Fig. 7: The Devil’s Briidge over the Minho at Orense,, Spain, 13th cen ntury (still in usee)

Otheer devil bridg ges sharing similar s chara acteristics are e to be foun d in Spain (a across the River Minho att Orense and near Barcelo ona) (Fig. 7),, over the Ne ervia at Dolcceaqua, Italyy (Fig. 8), in Bulgaria oveer the Arda River (Şeyt ytan Köprüsü) (Fig. 10), in Switzerland d (Teufelbruccke of St. Gootthard Pass)) (Fig. 11), ettc (see the W Wikipedia list below for an exttended list). The Devil’s Bridge B near Barcelona, p presently knoown as the b bridge of Ma artorelli (Fig. 9), w was built by the t Romans, and later re estored by thhe Moors aroound 1290 A A.D. Whetheer the Romans saw or made any conne ections of the bridge withh the devil re emains unknoown, althoughh it is highly improbable. The likeliihood that thhe Moors did d, however, seems s to be much m higher,, as the following passag ge by Watsoon implies: A similar belie ef also exists in No orthern Africa amo ong the Moors to thhe effect that the oold bridges containn a human body built into the masonry and that such a human sacrificce was necessary to t the stability of the t structure.


Fig. 8: Thee Devils’ Bridge across the Nervvia, Dolceaqua, Italy


Fig. 9: Martorelli, Spaiin - The Devil’s Bridge - Romann, Rebuilt by Mo oors around 129 90

Fiig. 10: Şeytan Kööprüsü, Arda Rivver, Bulgaria


Fig. 11: Teufelbrücke of o St. Gotthard PPass, Switzerlan nd

Fig. 12 2: A Devil’s Brid dge in England from f The Bridgess of Medieval Enggland by Harriso on


Fig. 13: Die Teeufelsbr端cke St. Gotthard by Josseph Turner (18 803-1804)

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Wiikipedia a’s incom mplete list of Devil’s D Bridges:


y another possibility p for explaining the reasonss why some b bridges are linked to a ssatanic entity y. Boyeer suggests yet She oobserves tha at in modern times “a num mber of brid dges have beeen named [or renamed]] after the devil,” such ass th a briidge built in the 11 cenntury across the t Hérault, near the covvents of Ania ane and Sainnt-Guilhem-lee-Désert. It laterr appears in the 1964 ed dition of the Guides Bleuss for France as the ‘Pont--du-Diable’. A Another exa ample can also be found in the departm ment of Isére of a bridge e once knownn as the Ponss Sancti Hugoonis that alsoo becomes dubb bed as Pont--du-Diable in the modern period. 12 2

The q question of whether w the devil d was really indirectlly, directly, oor allegorica ally involved in bridge design in the Midd dle Ages, fro om the generral opinion of o various schholars, conse quently remains open-ennded and a mystery to be soolved. Howe ever, turning the focus aw way from thiss association , substantial historical reecord affirmss that bridg ges were at least very much m connecte ed to saints, and that cha apels were eerected, in m many cases, oon their beha alf and to ho ouse their ashhes. The ‘diviine’ aspect of o bridges is thus certainlly more prevvalent, historrically recorded, and physically verrified than thhe ‘devil’ asp pect, as we leearn from inn numerous chhurch-related d documents d popular lore. connected to indulgences and

Figs. 14-17: Po ont St. Bénézet aat Avignon

Divinne interventio ons and motivations can be found in many folk ta ales that gennerally involvve a saint. Peerhaps the best example is in the story behind b the erection of the Pont St. Béénezet at Aviignon (Figs. 1 14-17), completed in 1178 8. According g to this legend, the inspiration for the e constructioon of the brid dge originateed from a viision that St. Bénéézet had whe en he was tw welve years-o old. The messsage from thhe vision req quired him too erect a brid dge in Avignon, across the t Rhone. Bo oyer describ bes the meanns through whhich the saintt was able too convince thhe people off townn to allow him m to proceed d with his misssion: Arriving at the e town on the day of an eclipse of thhe sun, he haranguued the people to persuade them to carry out the divinne mission. After meeting with jeers from the popuulace, threats of physical violence fro om the bishop of Avignon, A and skeptticism from the proovost, he performed d the miracle of ra aising and throwing g into the Rhone e, to found the firstt pier, a stone whicch would have required thirty men too move. This triump ph assured the enthhusiastic response tto his request for donations. Witnesses at the inve estigation leading to Bénezét’s beatiffication testified thhat they had persoonally known him, hhad seen him placee the first stone, and had acco ompanied him on his journeys to colle ect funds. Daily he performed miraclees, curing many of blindness, lameneess and other ills.

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Wattson notes tha at St. Bénéze et’s bridge was w one of thhe first majo r bridge works since the fall of the RRoman empiire, containinng twenty-tw wo masonry arches a of which only fourr stand. It intterestingly feeatures a cha apel that housees the ashes of St. Bénézzet on the second pier. Chapels, C whicch are the topic of the neext section, feature prom minently in medieval Euro opean bridge es, expressinng similar spiritual and w welfare princciples that Knnapp noticed d in thee East throug gh his researrch on Chinesse bridges fe eaturing Bud ddhist templees and sanctuuaries. Thesee chapels, pred dominantly dedicated to a saint, ofte en appear ass single units on a mid-piier or on the eastern sidee of a bridg ge, but can also a happen in pairs, and d involve muultiple dedica ations. The iimportance of o a saint and his/her association witth a bridge sseems to be so profound d in the Midd dle Ages thatt it beecomes dramatized in relligious sculpttural artworkk such as the one found oon the façade of an Italia an church at Borg go San Donniino which depicts the colllapse of a wooden w bridg ge, as noted by Boyer. Inn the work, tthe followerss of Sa an Donnino are a shown jumping into thhe river as thhey just learnn of the exisstence of the tomb of theeir beloved saintt encased within the bridge. The saintt, in turn, is dramatically d depicted ass ‘preserving g’ the faithful.

Eurropean Bridge Chapels Althoough very fe ew remain duue to time annd (in Englannd) the Englissh Reformation measuress against them, bridge chap pels were very common throughout Euurope, dating g back to thee twelfth cenntury: an earrly example including the cchapel of St James at the e bridge of Burton-uponB -Trent. Chap pel bridges b became moree numerous inn the fourtteenth centurry, appearing in British cities like Notttingham, Huuntingdon, Stockport and Bedford. M Martin Cook, in hiss book Medieval Bridgess, delineates the types off chapel brid dge typologies and varieeties, noting that althoough there were w many kiinds and pro ocedures, the e general rulee was to buiild a chapel “on or abovve a starling on onne side of thhe bridge” or at one end d. However, these t rules w were not folloowed in every case. On the Old Lond don Bridge (FFig. 18), for example, a two storey chapel c was b built within onne of the pieers. Another case is that of thhe chapel at Turvey Bridg ge, Bedforshhire, which was located oon an island iin the river. It is also fasccinating the way in which the chapel on Droitwich D brid dge in Woce ertershire, w as laid so thhat the overp pass crossed the chapel, sepa arating the pulpit p from thhe congregattion, according to observvations by Leeland.

Fig. 18: Old London Bridge Chapel

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It is ffascinating to o find, at lea ast in England, that the Virgin V Mary sseems to havve been a coommon patroon saint of bridg ges, as evide enced in Jervvoise’s resea arch on Northhern, Mid, annd Southern bridges in England. Examples of thiss occurrence includ de: 1. Bamb ber Bridge, Sussex, S over the Adur (12 254), mentiooned in a bulll of Sextus V VI, dated 14 473, as featuuring the chapel of St. Ma ary. 2. Illche ester Bridge,, 16th century y, Somerset, over the Yeoo River (restoored 1825),, featuring tw wo chapels, one dedicated d to Little St. Ma ary, and the other called d the White C Chapel. Thesse were later converted to dw wellings, as noted by Stukkeley. (Fig. 19) 1

Fig. 19 9: Illchester Bridgge

3. Catta awade Bridg ge, Stour Rive er, East Angllia and Essexx (1256), ha as a chapel d dedicated too the Virgin Mary y. (Fig. 20)

Fig. 20: Cattawade Briddge

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4. Brygg ge in Bungay y, River Wannevey, East Anglia A and EEssex. There is a record ffrom 1532 oof the ‘bylding of the chhapel of our Lady’ on the e bridge, whhich, accordinng to Rev. Allfred Suckling, was ed at the ea ast end of the e overpass, on o the southeern side of thhe river. The chapel was demolished locate in 1733. 5. The Great G Bridge e of 5 Arche of Stone at the North Ennde, built in 1314 in Donncaster, over a tributary of the e Ouse, featured a “Cha apelle of our Lady” whichh stood until the beginninng of the eig ghteenth century. 6. The Bridge B of Bruuggenorth, across the Rivver Severn, reecorded in 1 1478 as beinng a stone b bridge by Willia am of Worce ester, is desccribed as havving the chapel of the “TTrinite and oof Seynt Sithee the Holy Virginn.” (Leland) The chapel no longer ex xists. Chap pel bridges dedicated d to o other saintss in England include: 1 1. St. Ives Bridge over the Ouse (early 15th centtury), dedica ated to St. Leeger (Figs. 21-22). The chapel was

consecratted in 1384,, according to t the Victoriia County Hisstory, and buuilt on a pierr. (Harrison)

Fig. 21: St. Ivess Bridge before rrestoration

Fig. 22: St. Ivees Bridge after reestoration

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2 2. Newcastle Bridge ove er the Tyne, mentioned as a early as 1 1384 in an Innquisition document, is deescribed as

featuring g the chapel of St. Thoma as the Martyr.

Fig. 23: Newcastle Briddge

3 3. Elvet Brid dge (Fig. 24)), built by Huugh Pudsey, the bishop oof Durnham ffrom 1153-1195 (accord ding to the

‘Foedariuum’ of the Priory of Durnhham), had a chapel dedicated to St.. James at itss western end, and another dedicated d to o St. Andrew’s on the pier which curreently dividess the water a and land on tthe Elvet Bank.

Fig. 24: 2 Elvet Bridgee

4 4. A bridge e in the town of Natewyche, over the River Merseey in Westerrn England, hhas a dedica ated chapel to Saint Ann. A 5 5. High Brid dge, built in 1160, 1 in Linccoln, over the e Witham, feeatured the ““Chapelle off St. Georgee”. Leland notes that in 1235 the e overpass was w widened d on the easttern side for the placemeent of the chapel.*2 17 7

6 6. Burrow Bridge, in Som merset, over the Parrett, has a “Chap ppell dedica ated to St. M Michael” (Jervvoise) 7 7. The Old London Bridg ge (Figs. 25--26), started in 1177 byy Peter Colecchurch, featuured a chapeel on its ed to St. Thom mas à Becket. The ashes of Colechurcch were placced in the chhapel upon central pier dedicate ants to take his death in 1205. Thhe elaborate structure of the bridge iitself allowed for great royal pagea place, featuring imag ges of giantss and champions. Later oon, the Reform mation turneed the chapeel into a private re esidence. (Calabi & Conforti)

Figs. 25-26 6: Old London BBridge

In ad ddition to the e existence of o chapel bridges dedica ated to saintss, there weree also chapeels that serveed an entirely humanisttic purpose, as a evidenced d in the Channtry Certifica ate of 1546. This is the ccase of Wakkefield Bridg ge (Figs. 27--28), a mostly reconstructed Decorate ed Gothic brridge locateed in West Yorkshire, whiich is menttioned by Leland as beinng used in the times of pllague to “ennable the sickk to attend d divine servicee, leaving the p parish churchh for the use of the rest of o the parishiioners.” (Coook) The two chaplains were ‘to pray y for all Cristen sowlez and to do divvine service in the saide chapel in ty mes of the plage ffor the secke peop ple thither to resorte that thhe rest of the paro ochians may come to t ther paroch church withowte dang ger of infection of tthe secke.’ Survey fo Chantrries of the County oof York, 1548

Fig. 27-28: Wakefield Briidge

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Addiitional Englissh Chapel brridges include e: 1 1. Robertsbridge, 1176 6, Sussex, ove er The Rothe er a. Originally O connsisting of sm mall brick arcches, this brid dge was reb built in concreete in 1911 2 2. Rochesterr Bridge, Kennt, 1276 (Chhapel located d on east ennd of the brid dge) 3 3. Bramber Bridge, Susssex, over the e Adur, 1254 4 4 4. Biddeford Bridge, 14 4th century, suupported a chapel c from which indulg gences were sold by Gra andison, Bishop off Exeter, for the acquisition of funds for f the comp pletion of thee structure.

Rennaissancce Bridg ge Build ding Althoough philosophical ideas from anciennt Rome startted to be rea awakened d during the Reenaissance, thhe Church tried d to counter the t oncoming g enlightenment and secuularization byy becoming even more d dogmaticallyy aggressive, influeencing publicc work and art. a This period is marked d by two ma ajor examplees of bridgess that, in add dition to havinng served ass canvases fo or the lavish display of religious sym bolism, also served as coonnectors of sacred and ‘proffane’ spacess: The Ponte Sant’Angelo S in Rome, and the Karlsb brücke, in Pra ague. At Sa ant’Angelo (Figs. 29-33), Bernini emp ployed a sym mbolically reeligious prog gram on the bridge, placcing eight angeelic statues holding eleme ents from the e passion of Christ (Fig. 3 31) along thee parapets. The bridge became fundamentally im mportant in serving as a connection c frrom the sacr ed Vatican C City to Romee (Fig. 30), a after the Popees chose to be b relocated to the ancie ent city from their headquuarters in Avvignon at tha at point. Arouund 1450, two ooctagonal chhapels borde ering the new w monumenta al prison, faccing the city,, were built. Even during this period of reebirth, the co onnection bettween bridge es and chapels does not seem to go away.

Fig. 29: Ponte Sant’Anggelo

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Fig. 30: Co onnection to Vaatican

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Fig. 31: The Passion of C Christ

Fig g. 32: Some Ang gels from Pontee Sant’Angelo


Fig. 33: Pontte Sant’Angelo, Statues

Karlssbrücke, duriing the Reina assance, beccame a symb bol of Cathollic supremacyy in Prague. The bridge,, dedicated to Sa an Giovanni Nepomuceno (1330 – 1383), was thhe setting in which the Sw wiss reformation troops oof the 30yearrs-war (called Gothorum Vandolorum mque, or the Gothic G and thhe Vandals),, were halted d in 1648 inn their attem mpt to take over o the city y. After their victory, the church assureed that the JJesuit presennce in Praguee reinforced the C Catholic pow wer over the city. This was partly donne through thhe artistic dissplay of ideoological idea as, some whichh can be clearly seen in the decoratiion found on the legenda ary bridge. IIn the following passagee, Callabi and Conforti note that in the Christian World, W and to the Jesuits, the bridge w was/is associated not only with a 22 2

physsical, but also o with a theo ological or metaphysical m connection, and that to tthem it was oof utmost imp portance to use it as a meanss of communicating their message, which reffered d back to thee story of Genesis, to thee populace. Nel mondo cristiano, dove la sca ala è associata alll’ascensione, la tannsizione e la transccendenza, il ponte rappresenta ogni progetto di congiuunzione sia fisica sia teologica o metafisica: nella a Genesi Dio appa are, dopo il diluvo universale, nelle veesti di construttoree del ponte tra la ssfera umana e queella divina.

With this in mind, the t Jesuits, the erefore, decid ded to erect statues s of prootector saints a along the brid dge, and inveested signifficant emphassis in bringing san Giovanni Nepomuceno to attentionn. Nepomucenno was a marttyr who was thrown from the K Karlsbrücke into the river after ‘his tongue’ refuse ed to answerr his contemp porary king a question reegarding the e

fidellity of his wiffe, who had made her inntimate confe essions to thee future saintt. A cult of Nepomuceno followers was already noticeable in thhe 1600’s, annd in 1719, his canonization process was aided by the opening of his tomb b, in which it was discove ered that his tongue was still very mucch physicallyy ‘intact’ and d miraculously ‘rose’ in appeearance.

Fig. 34 4-37: Karlsbrückke

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Conclusion Watson notes that it is clear that through the Middle Ages and up to the eighteenth century, “all notable bridges were designed by the priests and by architects”, and that the engineer had not yet emerged as a separate profession. This separation, of course, coincides with the Age of Reason, in which science became skeptical of whatever could not be rationally proven or be efficient enough. This is the point in which, one might say, a good amount of esoteric associations, cultural contexts, and ‘play’ were quickly lost to welcome in an entirely new era of enlightenment modeled after one of many possible interpretations of glorious ancient civilizations. The transition from Roman times to modern times in the western world was marked by a very particular, and perhaps more community-based, pious, and less arrogant way of looking at the world. This was certainly reflected in bridge design, as we have seen in the emergence of chapel bridges, in the concern of the hermit for the safety of travelers (like St. Christopher), and in many legends in which individuals, like St. Bénézet, devote their lives to a calling, to a mission in order to achieve a greater good. At the same time, however, we are confounded by stories involving barbaric actions, such human sacrifice, as implied in legends behind the construction of Devil’s Bridges. Thus, from briefly looking at the extensive research on medieval bridges one starts to realize that, although engineering knowledge was low during the Middle Ages, allegorical or real ‘play’ seemed plentiful. We have to be critical, however, of the extend of this ‘play’. David Billington, in his essay The Legacy of Maillart: Structural Art and Architecture, makes a very good comment concerning this: So-called play without discipline is just as demonic as discipline without play.

This undoubtedly encapsulates the idea that there must be a balance between reason and irrationality, between the mathematically-based and the metaphysical-cultural worlds. In human recorded history we have been fortunate enough to see how too much of one or the other can be detrimental in a design scheme through the historical cycles of high and low technological periods. Too much superstition (brought by a low-tech period) or too much science (brought by a high-tech era) can veer too far from producing optimal results. That is, whereas Romans and the moderns have enjoyed high quality engineering, on the other hand, cultural, religious, and even a sense of community have been left aside for the sake of efficiency, time, and money. The Middle Ages and Renaissance, while lacking a highly advanced ‘discipline’, seemed to have enjoyed, again, a more humane, community-based, free work-environment in which more ‘play’, even if allegorical in nature, was common. If we are to understand all these periods through Billington’s lens we have to therefore say that all eras have been largely ‘demonic’ in nature: in medieval times this condition perhaps being more strikingly reflected in the allegoric or ‘real’ connection of the bridge with the devil, and in modern times, with a total lack of cultural context in highway bridge engineering, for example. Nevertheless, it seems that currently a shift is starting to take place in which both architects and engineers are reuniting in attempts to provide more holistic designs. This is something which certainly brings all of us hopes for a less ‘profane’ future.


Ap ppendix: Some ‘Sacred d’ Peculiiarities In the boo ok I Ponti Dellee Capitali D’Europa, Donate ella Calati annd Claudia Coonforti note thhe existence oof mason markks on the London Bridge (ass recorded in 1758). One symbol, s 10 incches high (Fig g. 35-36), is d described as b being an old markk for Southwark. However, this symbol, having h been sttudied by schholars like Alb bert Churchwa ard, appears to be more than a reference to t a place. It appears a to be e, rather, a ve ery ancient syymbol, accord ding to the folllowing passa age:

Fig. 38: Symbol fou und on the Old LLondon Bridge

g. 39: Mason Sig gn on the Old Loondon Bridge Fig

25 5

Fig. 40

Fig. 41

Fig. 42

They [Nilotic people] converted (Fig. 40) into a double cross, (Fig. 41), by placing the two sticks in a different way, and it is used amongst these people as one of their most sacred signs in their Totemic Ceremonies, and has been adopted by those who followed down to our present Christian and other Cults as one of their sacred signs, and is used by Brothers [Freemasons] of the higher degrees. The symbolism and meaning are identical all through. Amongst the Stellar Mythos people (those who first reckoned time and kept their record by observation of the precession of the seven Pole Stars) it was used in the primary form, and is an Egyptian ideograph for Amsu – i.e. it is the first name given to the risen Horus, or, as Christians would say, the risen Christ. In a later phase, in the form of a double-headed Hammer or Axe, it was the symbol of the Great One, the Great Prince (Fig. 42). [Derivations of this symbol] are found in the old Temples of Egypt, in the Ritual of Ancient Egypt, in Central and South America, Asia, and, as Evans found, at Knossos….

Churchward also observes that variations of this symbol exist in Wales, Devon, and Cornwall, as well as in other countries (Fig. 43).

Fig. 43: Variations found in Wales, Devon, and Cornwall

He further explains that the symbol below (Fig. 44) is commonly depicted on many “stone walls of many old churches in the West of England, and the interpretation [in this case] is that it represents Christ in his spiritual form in the Christian Cult:”


Fig. 44

An a ancient Babylonian scene (Fig. 45) intterestingly displays a variation of thiis symbol:

Fig. 45

on is used in the t Catholic Church to sy ymbolize Chrrist: (The Chi Rho) (Fig. 46 6) Its modern versio

Fig. 46

27 7

Notes 1.


Modern Freemasonry appears to be partly or fully derived from the companionnages, although the philosophical outlook of these two organizations very much differed and still differs from each other. While the companionnages have been associated with traditionalism and Catholicism, Freemasons have been associated with Republicanism and Socialism (at least in the francophone world, as observed by Birksted in his book Le Corbusier and the Occult). Once the builders of the ancient cathedrals of Europe, the companionnages have more rencently been involved in great works such as the Eiffel Tower. The Freemasons, on the other hand, have remained mostly philosophical and political in nature, as it emerged during the Enlightenment era. It is interesting that an ornamented obelisk was erected on the east side of the bridge in 1765 – obelisks being objects often associated with philosophical Freemasonry.


Billington, David. "The Legacy of Maillart: Structural Art and Architecture." Robert Maillart and the Art of Reinforced Concrete. Print.

Birksted, J. K. . Le Corbusier and the Occult. Cambridge, Massachusetts | London, England: The MIT Press, 2009. 281. Print.

Boyer, Marjorie. Medieval French Bridges: A History. New York: The Medieval Academy of America, 1976. 2-126. Print

Calabi, Donatella, and Claudia Conforti. I Ponti Delle Capitali D'Europa. Elemond spa, Milano: Electa, 2002. 106-196. Print.

Churchward, Albert. The Arcana of Freemasonry. San Francisco, CA: Weiser Books, 2005. 191-96. Print.

Cook, Martin. Medieval Bridges. Buckinghamshire, UK: Shire Publications LTD, 1998. 7-41. Print.

Harrison, David. The Bridges of Medieval England: Transport and Society 400-1800. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004. 17-27. Print

Jervoise, E. The Ancient Bridges Southern England. Westminster, S.W.: The

Architectural Press, 1930. 16-

102. Print.


Jervoise, E. The Ancient Bridges of the North of England. Westminster, S.W.: The

Architectural Press,

1931. 32-106. Print.

Jervoise, E. The Ancient Bridges of Mid and Eastern England. Westminster, S.W.: The

Architectural Press,

1932. 59-129. Print.

Jervoise, E. Ancient Bridges of Wales and Western England. Westminster, S.W.: The

Architectural Press,

1936. 7-140. Print.

Knapp, Ronald. Chinese Bridges: Living Architecture From China's Past. Tokyo | Rutland | Vermont | Singapore: Turtle Publishing, 2008. 40. Print.

Watson, William. Bridge Architecture: Containing Two-Hundred Illustrations of the Notable Bridges of the World, Ancient and Modern with Descriptive, historical and Legendary Text. New York: Wiliam Helbum INC., 1927. 51-97. Print.

Image Citations C o v e r I m a g e : Albert Churchward, The Arcana of Freemasonry 196. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22.

< > < > Ronald Knapp, Chinese Bridges: Living Architecture From China's Past 40. E. Jervoise, Ancient Bridges of Wales and Western England 31. < > <> < > William Watson, Bridge Architecture: Containing Two-Hundred Illustrations of the Notable Bridges of the World, Ancient and Modern with Descriptive, historical and Legendary Text 69. William Watson, Bridge Architecture: Containing Two-Hundred Illustrations of the Notable Bridges of the World, Ancient and Modern with Descriptive, historical and Legendary Text 70. < > < > David Harrison, The Bridges of Medieval England: Transport and Society 400-1800 27. < > Donatela Calabi and Claudia Conforti, I Ponti Delle Capitali Dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Europa 147. Marjorie Boyer, Medieval French Bridges: A History 125. William Watson, Bridge Architecture: Containing Two-Hundred Illustrations of the Notable Bridges of the World, Ancient and Modern with Descriptive, historical and Legendary Text 59. Marjorie Boyer, Medieval French Bridges: A History 125. Donatela Calabi and Claudia Conforti, I Ponti Delle Capitali Dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Europa 196. E. Jervoise, Ancient Bridges of Southern England 92. E. Jervoise, Ancient Bridges of Mid and Eastern England 145. Martin Cook, Medieval Bridges 40. David Harrison, The Bridges of Medieval England: Transport and Society 400-1800 113.


23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. E. Jervoise, Ancient Bridges of the North of England 32. E. Jervoise, Ancient Bridges of the North of England 40. E. Jervoise, Ancient Bridges of Southern England 16. William Watson, Bridge Architecture: Containing Two-Hundred Illustrations of the Notable Bridges of the World, Ancient and Modern with Descriptive, historical and Legendary Text 62. E. Jervoise, Ancient Bridges of the North of England 106. Martin Cook, Medieval Bridges 41. Donatela Calabi and Claudia Conforti, I Ponti Delle Capitali D’Europa 104. Donatela Calabi and Claudia Conforti, I Ponti Delle Capitali D’Europa 105. Donatela Calabi and Claudia Conforti, I Ponti Delle Capitali D’Europa 108. Donatela Calabi and Claudia Conforti, I Ponti Delle Capitali D’Europa 109. Donatela Calabi and Claudia Conforti, I Ponti Delle Capitali D’Europa 125. William Watson, Bridge Architecture: Containing Two-Hundred Illustrations of the Notable Bridges of the World, Ancient and Modern with Descriptive, historical and Legendary Text 72. Donatela Calabi and Claudia Conforti, I Ponti Delle Capitali D’Europa 132. Donatela Calabi and Claudia Conforti, I Ponti Delle Capitali D’Europa 134. Donatela Calabi and Claudia Conforti, I Ponti Delle Capitali D’Europa 135. Donatela Calabi and Claudia Conforti, I Ponti Delle Capitali D’Europa 191. Donatela Calabi and Claudia Conforti, I Ponti Delle Capitali D’Europa 191. Albert Churchward, The Arcana of Freemasonry 137. Albert Churchward, The Arcana of Freemasonry 137. Albert Churchward, The Arcana of Freemasonry 137. Albert Churchward, The Arcana of Freemasonry 191. Albert Churchward, The Arcana of Freemasonry 196. Albert Churchward, The Arcana of Freemasonry 193. < >


Cyclic Notions in the West A Closer Look at the Bridge in the Middle Ages  
Cyclic Notions in the West A Closer Look at the Bridge in the Middle Ages  

Research on bridges of the Middle Ages and their folklore