First up has got to be the Peace Bridge in Derry/Londonderry. Not only for the ascetics of the two sweeps do I select this pedestrian bridge over the River Foyle. But like the Hands Across the Divide statue not far from the western end of this bridge it actually is aiming to do just that for the community that is largely divided on sectarian lines, largely by that river.
It opened ahead of the City becoming the first UK City of culture and crosses from just behind the Guild Hall across to the new public space called Ebrington Square on the site of the former army barracks on the Waterside of the City. It has seen more people crossing the River to mingle and mix with those on the other side that for many years previously.
Being a fan of cycling a get to see a lot of great sites around the world and in 2010 the Tour de France passed under this bridge and my imagination was piqued. French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Sir Norman Foster combined to make this thing of beauty. But as well as being beautiful it is a spectacle of engineering with the middle tower being 340m above the base of the structure making it the tallest bridge in the world and its vehicle deck is the 12th highest. Indeed that pier is the tallest structure in France surpassing even the Eiffel Tower. It spans 2.46km across the Tarn Valley. It is built on a curve to help it stand up to high winds such as the Mistral that affects that part of France.
In 1357, during the reign of Charles IV of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor work began on the Stone Bridge to span the River Vltava linking Prague Castle with the City's old town. It was to the Juduth Bridge which had been badly damaged by floods in 1343. From its completion in the early 15th century until 1841 it was the only way to cross the river in the city.
There are 30 statues on the balustrade of the bridge most of the current statues dating from the early 18th Century. Though two of the positions have a longer history and signifigance than that. On the North Side soon after 1361 a wooden cricifix was originally installed where the Cricifix and Calvary statue now stands. It was probably destroy by the Hussites in 1419. But a replacement in 1629 was destroyed by the Swedes towards the end of the 30 Years' War (1618-1648). It was replaced by a metal version in 1657 made by H. Hillger, in 1666 the two lead figures were added. Those figures were replaced with sandstone statues by Emanuel Max in 1861. On the South Side where the Statue of the Lamentation of Christ now stands there was originally a wooden crucifix that was destroyed by flood in 1496, in 1695 a Jan Brokoff statue of the Lamentation of Christ was placed there, but in was removed to a Monastery in 1859 to be replaced by the current Emanuel Max vision of the same.
The Oldest Statue however on the bridge is that of St John of Nepomuk, who was thrown from the bridge in 1393 by Wenceslaus the Idle, Charles IV's successor, because he refused to divulge the confession of Wenceslaus's Queen. Most visitors to the bridge will be personally acquainted to this statue, as it here that it is deemed good fortune to touch the bridge, and to ensure you will return to Prague.
My family history should hate this bridge, because my paternal grandmother's family were ferrymen on the Foyle. But before this wrought iron bridge was built in 1861 William Walsh ran the seven ferries that crossed the Liffey in Ireland's largest city. However, the ferries were getting into a state of disrepair so he was ordered to upgrade them or build a bridge. As this bridge pays tribute he took the later option. As a result he and his heirs were allow to extract a toll on those who crossed using the bridge for 100 years. It was later raised to a penny ha'penny but tolls were dropped in 1919 during the war of independence.
In 2001 major repair work was needed on the bridge, and this was carried out by the Belfast ship builders Harland and Wolff. The bridge was also at this time returned to its original white paintwork.
|Alfred Wainwright's sketch of Matty's Bridge|
I've covered the grand, works of modern awesomeness, symbolism and the move to modernity. But my last bridge is so humble in comparision. It is the oldest surviving pack horse bridge in Cumbia crossing the River Calder high up in Ennerdale, close by my uncle's familial origins. It was originally built by the monks of Calder Abbey and would have been used to transport good from their fields to the stores as well as iron ore from the nearby mines.
It is near the Calder Bridge to Ennerdale Bridge road but the first time I saw it was following one of Alfred Wainwright's routes in the Western Fells. So I like many others first see this bridge with my boots on, pack on my back and stick in my hand.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge - North Antrim
Sunshine Skyway Bridge - Tampa Bay
Stari Most - Mostar, Bosnia Herzegovina