Roman bridge of Salamanca

The Roman bridge of Salamanca (in Spanish: Puente romano de Salamanca), also known as Puente Mayor del Tormes is a Roman bridge crossing the Tormes River on the banks of the city of Salamanca, in Castile and León, Spain.[1] The importance of the bridge as a symbol of the city can be seen in the first quartering of city's coat of arms (along with its stone bull-verraco.)[2] Has been known traditionally as puente mayor and as puente prinçipal (main bridge) which gives access to the southern part of the city. The bridge is presented in 21th century as a result of several restorations, one of the disasters that most affected it was the Flood of San Policarpo (January 26's night) of year 1626.[3] It is declared Artistic Historic Monument on June 3, 1931,[4] and Bien de Interés Cultural since 1998. Until beginning of 20th century does not lose its status single pass of access to the city, and for many years continues to bear the heavy traffic. From the construction of a third bridge for road traffic it remains a unique way of pedestrian and walking use.

Actually it is a construction of two separated bridges by a central fortification: the old bridge which extends along the portion near the city (it is called puente vieja) and it is of Roman origin, and the new bridge (called puente hispana). Of the twenty-six arches, only the first fifteen date from Roman times. The stone used in its construction differs in origin, while employed in Roman bridge area is originally from the granite quarries of Los Santos (Béjar), the stone used in the hispana part and more modern bridge, comes from the area of Ledesma. The bridge has been restored on numerous occasions and has survived several attempts demolition. Many of the restorations have been poorly documented, leaving for the study of archaeologists great part of the work of determination, dating and explanation of the construction techniques of the ancient.[1] The date of the construction of the bridge not is precisely known, but is among the mandates of the Emperors Augustus (27 B. C.-14 D. C.) and Vespasian (69-79), making it a bimillennium architectural monument.


The history of the bridge is connected to the city and is part of its most characteristic monuments along with the two cathedrals, the La Clerecía, Plaza Mayor, Casa de las Conchas. Formerly, there was a popular belief that the bridge was first built by Heracles and later was rebuilt by the Roman Emperor Trajan.[2] the basis for the theory that it was Trajan its builder, reports Gil González Dávila in 1606, it is a tombstone found at the time, but actually refers to a repair of the Vía de la Plata. In 1767, it found in the first arcade a plate box and within a medal in honor to Heracles, the Salamancan chronicler Bernardo Dorado realizes this in his Compendio Histórico de la Ciudad de Salamanca. This meeting reinforced the popular idea that without scientific basis has remained in popular sayings. Nevertheless, subsequent historical research mention that the bridge was built in the second half of 1st century. Born as a need to provide crossing Tormes River by travelers on the Vía de la Plata linking Mérida and Astorga (Iter ab Emerita Asturicam).


Already in the 13th century it documented the existence of the Verraco next to the bridge, and in 1606, the city's chronicler Gil González Dávila demonstrate that the Salamanca's coat of arms has a stone bull in the first quartering. This coat of arms was used in the wax seals of council and clergy. Although the verraco date from the time of the Vettones, the construction of the bridge dates back to times of Roman rule over the area. The trajectory of the Iter ab Emerita Asturicam through Salamanca requires the construction of a bridge near the city to save the obstacle of river. Nevertheless, there is no documentary, epigraphic and archaeological evidence capable to accurately determine the moment of construction.[5]

Due to the constructive evolution of this stretch of Roman road (completed in all its sections in year 19 BC), is possible that the bridge was built approximately during the Nero's mandate. Other historians date from the time of Trajan and Hadrian (bridge factory has similarities with the Aqueduct of Segovia).[6] These studies are based on the epigraphics studies made to milestones of the road, not in coins since the bridges, to be frequent passage places, do not provide reliable information from archaeological point of view.

The Vía de la Plata was completed in all sections and in 19 BC. The descriptions made by Strabo (III, 4, 20) of the distribution of the Roman troops in Hispania, show that the Roman deployment was enabled from Astorga, León to Lusitania.

When Augustus makes his second stay in Hispania between 16 and 13 B.C., new populate places began to organize along the roads, especially those engaged in the ore transport. This led to the need to build elements of public works to facilitate communication and transport. During the Flavian dynasty's period there was great activity in the northern Spain reflected in increased construction activity. At beginning of the first century, it is when begin to exploit the Las Cavenes's gold mines (in El Cabaco). This suggests that the bridge was built during the Trajan's rule, time of great municipalization of population centers. It is possible that the bridge was not in the beginning only of stone but a mixed construction with wood.[7]

After Roman times there are few data on the role of bridge in successive invasions of Suebis, Vandals and Alans, or during the lengthy Visigoths reign of Toledo.

Middle Ages to eighteenth century

It is possible that the bridge was subjected from the beginning to the flooding of Tormes River. This suggests that the primitive Roman bridge could have an equal (or lower) length than the current, being the "hispana" part a medieval reconstruction of a strong flood. The bridge was key in communication with the Leonese kingdom during the Reconquista. Nevertheless, it is not until 12th century when it has documented information of the existence of the bridge, and it seems that was in use. Control of people and goods (in addition to collection of the portazgo tax) was realized in the near side of Salamanca. One of the first major flooding is what happens in 1256, called Ríada de los Difuntos. This flooding and effects on the bridge are documented and it seems that left impassable the southern part of the bridge. It (documentary) unknown whether the new part of the bridge was subsequently built to this flood.

<gallery widths="250px" heights="250px" title=Bridge's sections to both sides of the central "castillete" (monument) > Lado romano del Puente - Salamanca.JPG|Arches of the Roman Bridge (Old Bridge) near to the city Arcos - Puente Romano Salamanca (Lado nuevo).JPG|Archs of the Hispano Bridge (medieval "new bridge") on the other side of the river </gallery> Since late-15th century is known as the "puente prinçipal de la çibdad de Salamanca" (main bridge of the city of Salamanca) and suffers a flood of Tomes River known as the "avenida de Santa Bárbara" (December 3, 1498). In the early-16th century, the Tormes was considered, like the Tagus, one of the most dangerous rivers in the Iberian Peninsula, due to their large floods.[8] In 1570, traveler and painter Anton van den Wyngaerde paints the bridge and city from the arrabal. In 1626, the Flood of San Policarpo occurs, causing numerous destructions in the city and the bridge's medieval section (new bridge) is heavily damaged in two of its arches. Gradually go plummeting the following arcs until the Central monuments that divides the old and new section, stops the cascade crash, remain undamaged the Roman section. In 1627, one of the major repairs occurs, being Corregidor of Salamanca Diego de Pareja Velarde, as can be seen today in the two pillars of the entrance to the arrabal. In it the central tower and the battlements are removed.

Traveler Anton van den Wyngaerde portrays the city from the arrabal in 1570 where it can see the bridge with its central monument.

Bridge after the Flood of San Policarpo

The bridge's second repair occurs in 1767, when mantain the bridge its eleven modern and fifteen Roman arches.

On July 22, 1812, during the Peninsular War against the Napoleonic French troops, there was a battle south of the city (in the hills of Arapil Chico and Arapil Grande) the Battle of Salamanca (Battle of los Arapiles).[9] The bridge became, for its strategic position, a military target. The day before the battle, Duke of Wellington took the Roman bridge and the fords of Santa Marta and Aldea Luenga and from here could lead the French troops's attack.

Painting of Roman bridge of Salamanca by Harry Fenn and J. Godfrey in 1860, in the work Picturesque Europe.

The bridge is portrayed by the romantic painter David Roberts in 1837, and also by Gustave Doré in 1862.


  1. 1 2 Luis R. Menéndez Bueyes, Margarita Prieto Prat, Manuel Carlos Jiménez González, (200), the Roman bridge of Salamanca in the chronicles, historical sources and historiography Salamanca: studies journal, ISSN 0212-7105, no. 44, pp. 193-220
  2. 1 2 Manuel Gonzalez de la Llana, (1869), General Chronicle of Spain: that is Illustrated and descriptive history of its provinces, its most important populate places, Province of Salamanca, Volume 2, Number 5
  3. Ángel Vaca Lorenzo, (2011), El Puente Romano de Salamanca - Desde su construcción hasta la riada de Policarpo de 1626,
  4. Gaceta de Madrid of 4 June of 1931, num. 155, p. 1184
  5. J. Mauluquer De Motes, (1956), Carta Arqueológica de España, Diputación Provincial de Salamanca, nº 181
  6. C. Morán Bardón, B. Oliver Román, (1949), The Roman road "La Plata" in the province of Salamanca, Ministry of Public Works, Madrid, pp. 27
  7. Calderón, C., “Los puentes en la Castilla Bajomedieval”, en Cuadernos de Historia de España, 71 (1989), p. 40.
  8. Á. Vaca Lorenzo, “La Tierra de Campos y sus bases ecológicas en el siglo XIV”, en Stvdia Historica. Historia Medieval, X, Salamanca, 1992, p. 170
  9. Miguel Alonso Baquer, (1995), La batalla de Salamanca o de los Arapiles, Militaria, Revista de Cultura Militar, nº7 . Servicio de Publicaciones UCM. Madrid

Coordinates: 40°57′28″N 5°40′13″W / 40.9578°N 5.6702°W / 40.9578; -5.6702

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