Monuments & Buildings

Ponte Antiga sobre o Rio Gilão

The first references to Ponte Antiga sobre o Rio Gilão, the ancient bridge of Tavira appear in the Chronicle of the Conquest of the Algarve, a medieval text that reports the conquest of the locality to the Moors in the thirteenth century. Nevertheless, in the city there is the widespread idea that the construction was due to the Romans.
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The first references to the ancient bridge of Tavira appear in the Chronicle of the Conquest of the Algarve, a medieval text that reports the conquest of the locality to the Moors in the thirteenth century. Nevertheless, in the city there is the widespread idea that the construction was due to the Romans. Until the seventeenth century, according to a well-known antique print of the city, the bridge presented a cruciform plant due to the existence of a large central breakwater, having come to be inhabited according to the chronicler Henrique Fernandes Sarrão who, around 1600, points out the existence of houses on the board. One of the entrances, on the south side, was defended by a large medieval tower, of octagonal plan. It functioned as an Albarrã tower and was attached to the city walls through an arcade, having been demolished in 1883. The collapse of the primitive structure in 1655 determined the reconstruction work that gave it its present appearance. At the time, the official entities and the people of the city gathered to ensure the reconstruction of the bridge. King John IV sent Mateus do Couto, architect of the Military Orders, who together with The Frenchman Pedro de Santa Colomba, military engineer, were responsible for the project. The Chamber of Tavira financed the work. Finally, it was up to the Tavirenses to contribute to the workforce, guided by three master masons from Lisbon. The support of the crown and the congregation of efforts in this endeavor, completed in 1657, reflects the importance of the bridge and the need to keep it operational in the context of the Restoration War, which opposed Portugal to neighboring Spain between 1640 and 1668. The reconstruction determined the elimination of the old central breakwater and the opening, in its place, of another arch, leaving the composite bridge, under the board, with seven arches alternated by pegs reinforced by angled sea hoists. At the top of the buttresses open walled parapets delimiting accessible areas. More recently, the great flood of 3 December 1989 caused serious damage to the structure. One of the sea hoists, upstream, was practically destroyed and two arches badly damaged, determining that here were restoration works that lasted until the end of 1992. The monument was the scene of clashes in the period of dynastic crisis after the reign of D. Fernando I, between 1383 and 1385. It was on the bridge that a gonçalo de Mendonça, from Faro, with other residents of the same village defenders of the cause of the Master of Avis, were gladied with the supporters of the king of Castile, defeating them. The event is today marked on a small panel of tiles located at the entrance of the board.

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