10 Famous Bridges

10. Chapel Bridge of Lucerne


The oldest wooden bridge in Europe and the most photographed entity in Switzerland,  the Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge) spanning the Reuss River in Lucerne was built in 1333. Originally designed to protect the city from attacks, the original bridge and its paintings dating from the 17th century were destroyed in a 1993 fire. The bridge is over 200 m long and adjoining it is the 43 m Wasserturm (Water Tower), an octagonal tower made from brick, which has served as a prison, torture chamber, watchtower and treasury. Today the tower, which is part of the city wall, is the guild hall of the artillery association.


9. Brooklyn Bridge


One of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States, the Brooklyn Bridge, designed in 1867, was the dream of John A. Roebling, the inventor of wire cable and an accomplished bridge builder. Roebling was injured while surveying the property and died of tetanus before the bridge was built. Fourteen years later, the project was completed by Roebling’s daughter-in-law, Emily. The gothic towers of the bridge are entirely of granite, and the roadway platform is supported by two-inch diameter steel suspenders strung from two pairs of cables – the catenaries – sixteen inches in diameter. The opening of the bridge in 1883 was marred by the deaths of twelve pedestrians, who were trampled during a panic set off by an anonymous shouted warning that the bridge was in danger of imminent collapse.


8. The Bridge of Sighs (Venice, Oxford and Cambridge)


The view from the Bridge of Sighs in Venice is said to be the last view of the fabulous city that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge name, given by Lord Byron in the 19th century, comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice out the window before being taken down to their cells under the palace roof. In reality, the days of inquisitions and summary executions were over by the time the bridge was built, and the questioned cells were then occupied mostly by small-time criminals. A Venetian legend says that lovers will be assured eternal love if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the bridge.

In 1914, a bridge, connecting the Old and New Quadrangles of Hertford College, Oxford was designed by Sir Thomas Jackson. It has since been referred as the “Bridge of Sighs” because of its supposed similarity to the famous Venetian bridge. In Cambridge also, there is a bridge named “Bridge of Sighs”. The bridge is one of Cambridge’s main tourist attractions and reputedly a favorite spot of Queen Victoria. Locals jest that the bridge is named in reference to the sound that Cambridge students make as they cross the bridge on their way out of exams.


7. Bridge to Nowhere


Gravina Island Bridge, a proposed road bridge over the Tongass Narrows to the town of Ketchikan in Alaska, became a controversial topic of the 2008 U.S. presidential election campaigns. The bridge was proposed to replace the ferry that connects Gravina Island’s 50 residents and the Ketchikan International Airport, and projected to cost $400 million. Members of the Alaskan congressional delegation were the bridge’s biggest advocates in Congress, and the bridge became an egregious symbol of pork barrel spending.


6. Stari Most


Mostar is a city and municipality in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the biggest and the most important city in Herzegovina. Mostar, on the Neretva river, was named after its Old Bridge, Stari Most, and its side-towers,   “the bridge keepers” (Mostari). The bridge was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1557 to replace an older wooden suspension bridge. Charged under pain of death to construct a bridge of such unprecedented dimensions, the architect reportedly prepared for his own funeral on the day the scaffolding was finally removed from the completed structure. Upon its completion it was a technical marvel and contained the widest man-made arch in the world. The bridge was destroyed by the Croatians during the Bosnian War in 1993, to erase any sign of Ottoman architecture in Bosnia. After the end of the war, the bridge was rebuilt with the help of UNESCO. Its 1,088 stones were shaped according to the original techniques in a reconstruction that cost €12 million. It reopened in 2004.

It is traditional for the young men of the town to leap from the bridge into the Neretva. As the Neretva is very cold, this is a very risky feat and only the most skilled and best trained divers will attempt it. The practice dates back to the time the bridge was built, but the first recorded instance of someone diving off the bridge is from 1664.


5. The Bridge on the River Kwai


Originally a novel by Pierre Boulle (Le Pont de la Rivière Kwai), it is adapted into a movie which won seven Oscars, including the Best Picture and the Best Director, despite a controversy over the book’s portrayal of collaboration with the enemy in the building of the infamous Burma Railway. The bridge pictured in the movie is actually built (and destroyed) in Sri Lanka, and it is a fictive amalgamation of many railway bridges constructed over the Mae Klong River. The destruction of the bridge is also entirely fictional: two bridges, a temporary wooden one and a permanent steel/concrete one, were built; both were destroyed by Allied bombing (above), but the steel bridge was repaired and is still in use today.


4. Pont d’Arcole


The Battle of the Bridge of Arcole, which took place from November 15th to 17th 1796, was the result of a bold attempt by Napoleon to outflank the Austrian army. The road that went north across the bridge intersected the Austrian lines of communication, which Napoleon hoped to be able to cut. However, it proved to be difficult even to reach the bridge at Arcole, let alone capture it. Although the French did manage to cross the bridge on the first day of the battle, they had to retire again. By the time the French managed finally to cross the bridge, the Austrians had managed to move the bulk of their army to safety, but Napoleon could still count himself successful in that he had forced the Austrians to abandon their plan of relieving Mantua. The battle was a complex engagement that concerned more than the crossing of a bridge, but the bridge figured prominently in many paintings of the battle for dramatic and allegorical reasons. The most famous painting is Napoleon at the Bridge of the Arcole by Baron Antoine-Jean Gros which is based on one eye-witness account that he saw Napoleon holding a colour and leading his grenadiers in an assault.


3. Bering Land Bridge


The best-known of the geological land bridges, the Bering land bridge joined present-day Alaska and eastern Siberia at various times during the Pleistocene ice ages, enabling humans to migrate from Eurasia to the Americas. It is believed that a small human population of at most a few thousand survived the Last Glacial Maximum in Beringia, isolated from its ancestor populations in Asia for at least 5,000 years, before expanding to populate the Americas sometime after 16,500 years ago, as the American glaciers blocking the way southward melted.


2. Pons Sublicius


The Pons Sublicius is the bridge that led across the Tiber to Rome. According to Roman legends, a lone hero, Horatius Cocles held the bridge against the invading Etruscans army of Lars Porsena, King of Clusium, in 507 BC. In Livy’s account, two other men (Titus Herminius & Spurius Lartius) stayed with Horatius while the others fled. The other two eventually left at Horatius’ request. As he defended the way to the bridge, the Romans destroyed it behind him. When they were done, he either swam to safety on the Roman side (according to Livy), or was drowned in the Tiber (according to Polybius). According to Livy, Horatius was rewarded with as much land as he could plough around in a single day. A one-eyed statue (Cocles mean one-eyed) in the temple of Vulcan near the Vatican Hill was erected in his honor. The story is famously retold in Lord Macaulay’s the Lays of Ancient Rome.


1. The Tay Bridge


Dubbed by Ulysses S. Grant as “a big bridge for a small city”, Tay Bridge spanning Firth of Tay in Scotland was designed by Thomas Bouch, inspired by the innovative use of cast iron in The Crystal Palace. Upon its completion in early 1878 the Tay Bridge was the longest in the world. On 28 December 1879, the bridge swayed and collapsed during a violent storm, while a train was crossing it. Seventy-five people (including Sir Thomas’ son-in-law) died in the crash, in the worst bridge disaster in history. The disaster is made famous in a poem by William McGonagall, who is regarded as the worst poet in history. McGonagall, who had previously written a poem in praise of the Tay Bridge (and who would later write a similar ode for the replacement Tay Bridge), penned these immortal lines:

                “And the cry rang out all round the town,

                Good heavens! The Tay Bridge has blown down.”


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