The Milvian Bridge: an ancient history for a modern bridge
Here we are with another episode of our story on Rome’s bridges; this time, we will tell you about one of the oldest ones: the Milvian Bridge.
It was in fact one of the first to be realized to allow the crossing of the river Tiber; it initially consisted in a wooden structure.
As we already saw, this choice turned out to be inadequate against the floods of the Tiber, so the bridge was soon replaced by a new one, this time made of stone.
It is hard to understand how much of the original structure is still there today, in its present configuration, due to the various alterations and stratifications that the bridge went through.
he three central arches of the original bridge are probably left, but, during the Middle Ages, many modifications were introduced, followed by other interventions.
A famous restoration is the one headed in 1805 by Valadier, who reintroduced the external arches, previously replaced by wooden drawbridges, and at the same time gave a neoclassical look to the bridge, adding a turret.
1849 was another milestone in the history of the Milvian Bridge: it was nearly destroyed by Garibaldi, with the aim of slowing down the French army. The damages were quickly repaired, thanks to Pope Pius IX who ordered his restoration the following year; it led to the bridge’s current configuration.
To this day, the Milvian Bridge is a six bays bridge, 152 meters long and 7.5 meters wide. One of its peculiarities is that its pillars present some arch openings that make it easier for the Tiber water to flow in the event of a flood.
According to tradition, the bridge had an especially important role for the history of Rome when emperor Constantine, during his battle against Maxentius, had a vision of the Cross with the inscription “In hoc signo vinces”, fact that spurred him to win the battle and to integrate the Christians.
Even today, however, the Milvius Bridge is highly attractive for tourists, due to a recently spread romanticism: after a novel by Federico Moccia, the bridge became famous because of the custom to attach a padlock to its lamppost as a sign of love. The ritual was at some point so common that it ended up causing a tragicomic consequence: one of the lamppost collapsed under the weight of so much love, putting an end to this trend.
Apart from these episodes, the bridge is now entirely closed to traffic, and it offers an interesting and charming view of the Tiber that visitors can not miss!