Alcantara Bridge

Alcantara Bridge
Alcantara Bridge

In the Spanish region of Extremadura there are many remains from the Roman era, and although the different monuments of Emerita Augusta (current Mérida), such as its theater or its amphitheater, are the better known, the truth is that there are many other magnificent ones such as the Puente de Alcántara in the town of the same name in the province of Cáceres.

Roman bridge of Alcantara

Roman Bridge of Alcantara

It is a bridge built at the beginning of the 2nd century (104 – 106) under the direction of the engineerCayo Julio Lacer, who became so proud of his work that when he passed away he was buried next to his creation. Specifically, he was buried in a temple next to the bridge. Although that temple, with the passage of time it was Christianized and both a belfry and a cross were added to it.

It was a bridge to cross the Tajo River and that there was a path to join Norba Caeserina (present-day Cáceres) and Conimbriga (now Coimbra, already in Portugal). For this purpose, five robust pillars with a rectangular base were erected, pillars that, together with the land itself at the ends, serve as support for six portentous arches on which the bridge deck passes, which reaches 214 meters in length.

On that board, in the center approximately, there is a great triumphal arch, 8 meters high, which was the touch that definitively gave the imperial aspect to this work. By the way, oneconstruction in the times of the emperor Trajano, of Hispanic origin. As can be read in an inscription made on the arch itself.

Triumphal Arch of the Alcántara Bridge

Arc de Triomphe of the Alcántara Bridge

The great attraction of the Alcántara Bridge from an engineering point of view is its large size and also its irregularity. An irregularity based on total adaptation to the terrain, since each of the six arches has different heights, just as the pillars also vary in height.

The entire work was built using ashlars carved from granite, a very hard rock, which did not prevent it from being worked with care and was even presented in cushioned ashlars.

Fortunately, today almost two millennia later it is still standing, which does not mean that throughout its history it has not suffered damage and reconstruction, especially during periods of war, and that is that we must take into account the border nature of this bridge between Spain and Portugal. So although its arches were destroyed on several occasions, the last in the 19th century, it was always rebuilt with an appearance more or less similar to the original. However, recent damage has been observed indicating that a restoration and consolidation project should be undertaken urgently.

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