A Tourist in Rome - Tiber River and Bridges

The Tiber River is the great river flowing through Rome, as all great cities have either a river flowing through them or are on the edge of a lake or an ocean. A waterfront makes a city great. But for Rome, the Tiber is a thing to be hidden and tamed by great walls since the flooding of the Tiber River has presented such a problem to Rome throughout its past. The legend of the founding of Rome involves the Tiber River, and the river marked the boundary between the lands of the Etruscans to the west, the Sabines to the east, and the Latins to the south. During the Punic War, the wars against Carthage that transformed Rome from a power on the Italian peninsula to a superpower on the Mediterranean, the harbor of Ostia Antica at the mouth of the Tiber River became a key naval base. It later became Rome's key port, where grain from Africa was imported to keep the people of Rome fed. During ancient times, executed criminals were thrown into the Tiber and people executed at the Gemonian Stairs were thrown into the Tiber during the later part of the reign of the emperor Tiberius. The Tiber flooded constantly, raising the street level of Rome due to silt deposited during these floods, making the ancient ruins be buried under the silt for centuries until it was exposed by excavation. Of course, during both ancient times and modern times, bridges spanned the Tiber River. Among the ancient bridges still extant today are the Ponte Sant'Angelo and the Ponte Fabrico. Some of the bridges over the Tiber River are shown below:

Ponte Cavour
Location:Just south of the Ara Pacis, east of Castel Sant'Angelo
Metro:Spagna
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

All right, so I have no photos of Ponte Cavour, but even better than that, I have pictures of snails on the railings of Ponte Cavour, taken right after the rain stopped. Opened in 1901, the 360-foot-long Ponte Cavour has five stone arches covered with travertine.

    
A snail on Ponte Cavour
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Snails on Ponte Cavour
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Ponte Umberto I
Location:The first bridge upstream from Ponte Sant'Angelo
Metro:Spagna or Lepanto, but is also just 4 blocks north from PiazzaNavona
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

Built between 1885 and 1895, the 344-foot-long Ponte Umberto I is dedicated to King Umberto I. It's 3 stone arches are covered with travertine. On the Vatican side of the bridge is the Roman Hall of Justice.

    
Ponte Umberto I, from Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Ponte Sant'Angelo
Location:Crossing the Tiber, south from Castel Sant'Angelo
Metro:Lepano or Ottaviano
Time:about 30 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

Ponte Sant'Angelo, once called Pons Aelius, meaning the Bridge of Hadrian, is a bridge across the Tiber River connecting Hadrian's Mausoleum (now called Castel Sant'Angelo to Rome's city center. The pedestrian-only bridge consists of five arched spans, the outer two of which are over land and the central three spanning the Tiber. The exterior is made of travertine. In 1535, Pope Clement VII erected statues of St. Peter (2nd photo below) and St. Paul (3rd photo below) on the city-center end of the bridge, and several other statues were later added on the bridge. Most people regard this as the most beautiful bridge in Rome because in 1669, Pope Clement IX commissioned Bernini to repace the statues on the bridge with ten angels holding ten Instruments of the Passion (objects associated with Christ's crucifixion). The angels are arranged such that the instruments they carry and the inscriptions carved into the bases tell the story of the Passion of Christ in chronological order in an irregular zig-zag pattern across the bridge.

Bernini himself sculpted two of the angels, but sketched all 10 and assigned the other 8 sculptures to members of his workshop. He also made clay models of many of the angels, a technique which allowed him to make adjustments easily as the model became more and more completed. He made sure to give three good angles of view for each angel: one, the most important, was for pilgrims walking from the city center toward Castel Sant'Angelo and on to the Vatican, another for a full frontal view when someone stood in front of the statue, and the third for when they returned to the city center from the Vatican and Castel Sant'Angelo. The two angels he actually sculpted were the Angel Carrying the Superscription and the Angel with the Crown of Thorns. Clement IX didn't want Bernini's angels to be ruined by the elements, so he had copies made for the bridge and kept the originals for himself. The originals were later given to the church of Sant'Andrea della Fratte where they still stand.

The ten angels are shown in order below, starting at the city-center end of the bridge, first the angel on the right (east) side, in full sun since these photos were taken after noon, then the angel on the left (west) side, with her face in shade, then the second angel on the left, second on the right, and so on (close, but not quite a repeating pattern, you might notice, since I've arranged the angels below as best I could according to the timeline of Christ's Passion). Each angel is photographed from 3 angles: first from the viewpoint of someone walking the bridge from the city-center end toward Castel Sant'Angelo, second from straight on, and third from the viewpoint of someone walking the bridge away from Castel Sant'Angelo.

    
Ponte Sant'Angelo
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St. Peter, at the city-center end of Ponte Sant'Angelo
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St. Paul, at the city-center end of Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Ponte Sant'Angelo and Castel Sant'Angelo
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The surface of Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Ponte Sant'Angelo from high up on Castel Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Column, by Antonio Raggi
    
Angel Carrying the Column, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Column, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Column, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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The column being carried by the angel is symbolic of the of the pillar which Christ was tied to while being whipped during the flagellation of Christ. The inscription on the base, from Ecclesiastes 24:4, is "My throne is upon a column". Raggi worked with Bernini since 1647 and became one of his most trusted assistants. He worked with Bernini on the Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona, and on the Chigi Chapel of Santa Maria del Popolo in Piazza del Popolo, so understood the style of Bernini very well and was considered to be one of the most similar to Bernini in the studio. But he didn't follow Bernini's instructions for this sculpture at all. Bernini's sketch for the Angel Carrying the Column showed the angel struggling to hold the column after stepping on its robe, with the robe falling off its shoulders and binding its arms. The desired effect might have been to relate the way the angel is bound by its own robe to the way Christ was betrayed by his own people. But Raggi's angel seems to be holding the column with little effort, and the clothes hang loosely over the angel's shoulders. The face is portrayed in a very ecstatic expression, the hair is very wavy, and the robe looks like its blowing in a strong wind. The cloud the angel stands upon is chaotic and billowed.


Angel Carrying the Scourge, by Lazzaro Morelli
    
Angel Carrying the Scourge, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Scourge, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel , on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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The angel holds the Scourge, a flexible whip used by the Romans to torture Jesus while he was tied to the column. According to Mark 15:15, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate had Jesus scourged before having him crucified. The inscription at the base, from Psalm 37:18, is "I am ready for the scourge". The thick leather strands that make up the whip, the draping of the angel's clothes, the angel's hair, and the highly billowed cloud that the angel stands upon are all swirled in a way that suggests the motion of the whipping. In Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of Christ" a metal barb which tore into flesh was on the end of each of the leather strands; this is either omitted in the sculpture or a fiction of the movie. The wings of this angel beautifully show layers of feathers, and one of the wings is featured in the view from Rome and the view from the castle. The view from Rome and even the frontal view suggest that the angel is looking at the whip, but the view from the castle shows her looking straight at us. Her look is contemplative, with obvious sadness. This angel's realization in stone is close to Bernini's conception, perhaps because he gave the young artist a clay model to imitate. Morelli worked with Bernini on the Tomb of Alexander VII in St. Peter's Basilica.


Angel Carrying the Crown of Thorns, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini
    
Angel Carrying the Crown of Thorns, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Crown of Thorns, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Crown of Thorns, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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The crown, of course, was placed upon Christ's head before his crucifixion, a symbol of the vane blindness of the men who were unable to recognize Christ's authority. According to Mark 15:17, Roman soldiers crowned Jesus with thorns before they crucified him. The inscription, from Psalm 31:4, is "The thorn is fastened upon me". Finally we have reached one of Bernini's own sculptures, and in my opinion, the better of the two. Just look at the difference between this sculpture and the ones we've seen so far: the emotion expressed by the face, the detail in the wings, the strength conveyed by her exposed leg and the natural motion conveyed by her feet and toes makes me wish Bernini had sculpted all ten angels; what a showpiece this bridge this would be! The angel expresses its emotion passionately, with intensity, conveying agonizing grief over the suffering of Christ, and is the only angel that expresses real grief to this extent. The original version of the sculpture, carved by Bernini himself, is shown in the photos below, taken in the church of Sant'Andrea della Fratte where the sculpture now stands.

    
Bernini's original sculpture of the Angel Carrying the Crown of Thorns, in Sant'Andrea della Fratte
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Bernini's original sculpture of the Angel Carrying the Crown of Thorns, in Sant'Andrea della Fratte
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Angel Carrying the Sudarium, by Cosimo Fancelli
    
Angel Carrying the Sudarium, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Sudarium, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Sudarium, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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The Sudarium (Veronica's Veil) is a cloth that was stained with the blood and sweat of Christ because it was used to clean off his face while he was carrying the cross to his crucifixion. According to Roman Catholic tradition, a woman named Veronica wiped Jesus' face with a cloth while he was carrying the cross; Jesus' image remained on the cloth. The inscription, from Psalm 84:9, is "Look upon the face of your Christ". The angel is holding the cloth out with both hands, showing it to us. The cloth looks soft, as it it represents a mercy shown to Christ during his Passion. She looks directly at the cloth, drawing our attention to it and expressing devotion toward what might be considered a relic. She stands on a shallow cloud, or maybe no cloud at all, and her wings are made of few quite large feathers, almost like large plant leaves. The wings are only prominent in the view from Rome. Fancelli worked with Bernini on the Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona along with Antonio Raggi. This angel has a dent in its base (photo below) from a cannonball which was fired during the papal defense of the Vatican in 1870. The statue was knocked into the river but it was repaired and replaced.

    
Angel Carrying the Sudarium, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Garment and Dice, by Palolo Naldini
    
Angel Carrying the Garment and Dice, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Garment and Dice, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Garment and Dice, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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The garment and dice are symbolic of the moment when Roman soldiers rolled dice to see who would win Christ's seamless robe. According to Mark 15:24, Roman soldiers took Jesus' well-made garments and played dice for them. The inscription, from Psalm 22:18, is "For my clothing they cast lots". The angel stands on no cloud at all, and looks off into the distance, as if expressing that all is lost and she cannot even fathom that men can do this. The dice are held in the piece of cloth she holds between her hands, and her garment droops to the ground. No wind remains, no motion, no hope. The angel's wings, visible mainly from the Rome side, show detail on top, but descend into less splendor near the bottom. The veiled left leg of the sculpture shows off Naldini's skill. The photo below shows a closeup of the dice which the angel holds in the garment between her hands.

    
Angel Carrying the Sudarium, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Nails, by Girolamo Lucenti
    
Angel Carrying the Nails, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Nails, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Nails, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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The nails held in the hands of this angel are symbolic of those used to nail Christ to the cross. According to Thomas' words in John 20:25, Jesus was nailed to the cross. The crucifixion narrative in John's gospel (John 19:37) quotes this Zechariah verse. Zechariah chapter 12 prophesies Jerusalem's victory and vindication, accompanied by mourning for those who suffered for her sake. The inscription on the base, from Zechariah 12:10, is "They will look upon me whom they have pierced". This angel is unique in that her body is quite large in proportion to her head, and the face does not resemble the face of any of the other angels on the bridge. The face is slender and her features are unique. Her wings are almost an afterthought, The angel's right hand is extended, presenting a nail, while two other nails are in her left hand. The cloud she stands on looks like it is made from rock rather than from the billowy material of the clouds of the other angels. Maybe part of the reason for these differences is that Lucenti was a bronze sculptor and was working out of his element on this stone sculpture.


Angel Carrying the Cross, by Ercole Ferata
    
Angel Carrying the Cross, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Cross, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Cross, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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The cross, of course, represents the cross that Christ had to carry through Jerusalem, and which he was eventually crucified upon. The inscription, from Isaiah 9:6, is "Dominion rests on his shoulders". This scripture verse links the "Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero" of Isaiah's prophecies to Jesus. Earlier in the same Isaiah passage, the prophet announces that "a child is born to us, a son is given us." The cross resting on Jesus' shoulders is symbolically linked to his dominion. The sculpture is somewhat inferior to the others on the bridge in that it looks like a relief sculpture on a two-dimensional surface rather than an unbounded 3-dimensional sculpture. The wings appear in the same plane as the rest of the sculpture. Ferata worked with Bernini and Antonio Raggi on the Chigi Chapel at the church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Piazza del Popolo. He followed Bernini's sketch for the sculpture well, but reduced the size of the cross the angel is holding, and executed the sculpture without much enthusiasm.


Angel Carrying the Superscription, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini
    
Angel Carrying the Superscription, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Superscription, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Superscription, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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The superscription carried by this angel consists of INRI, which stands for the Latin phrase "Jesus of Nazerene, King of the Jews", and represents the sign nailed to the cross above Jesus' head. The inscription, reads "God has reigned from the tree" (referring to the wood of the cross). A 6th century hymn with the words from that inscription references a blessed tree that produced a wealth that restored the world. You can look at the face of this angel and identify it as a work of Bernini's, since it looks so similar to the face of St. Theresa. Check out how well Bernini makes the angel's clothes stand out from her flesh; it almost looks like the drapery was added on after the sculpture of the body was finished. Look at the detail and delicacy of this angel's wings, sculpted to appear so billowed as to be made of fluff. Although credit for the copy of this statue on the bridge is given to Giulio Cartari, I believe it has recently been established to be the work of Bernini himself, replicating his original sculpture. The original version of the sculpture, definitely carved by Bernini himself, is shown in the photos below, taken in the church of Sant'Andrea della Fratte where the sculpture now stands.

    
Bernini's original Angel Carrying the Superscription, in Sant'Andrea della Fratte
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Bernini's original Angel Carrying the Superscription, in Sant'Andrea della Fratte
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Angel Carrying the Sponge, by Antonio Giorgetti
    
Angel Carrying the Sponge, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Sponge, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Sponge, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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A Roman soldier soaked a sponge in sour wine (vinegar), put it on a stick, and offered it to the lips of Jesus high up on the cross when he was near death. The gospels of Matthew and Mark report that just before Jesus died, one of the soldiers who crucified him placed a sponge dipped in "sour wine" on a stick and held the stick to Jesus' lips. The inscription, from Psalm 69:21, is "They gave me vinegar to drink". The angel has a very youthful face, round and reminiscent of the depictions of youthful angels in Renaissance through Baroque paintings. The angel's clothes are highly detailed, with deep carving to show the folds in the garment, her wings are beautifully sculpted with spectacular feathers, and she stands on a billowing cloud. Her fingers delicately hold the stick with which she offers the sponge. From all angles, the angel's eyes are gazing intensely, directly on the sponge. Giorgetti followed Bernini's model for the angel's pose and drapery very closely.


Angel Carrying the Lance, by Domenico Guidi
    
Angel Carrying the Lance, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Lance, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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Angel Carrying the Lance, on Ponte Sant'Angelo
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The lance is symbolic of the spear used by Roman soldiers to puncture Jesus' side, wounding his heart and confirming his death before taking him down from the cross. According to John's gospel, after Jesus died, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear to confirm that he was dead. Christian tradition has tied this action to the "ravishing" or "wounding" of the heart of the beloved in the Song of Solomon. This tradition emphasizes that Jesus underwent death by crucifixion as an act of love for humankind. The inscription on the base, from Song of Solomon 4:9, is "You have ravished my heart". The angel holds the lance close to its body. The drapery of the angel's clothes is swept at the same angle as the lance to reinforce that angle. The angel's hair is swept back at that same angle. The angel stands on clouds that look more realistic than the billowy clouds of other angels. Her wings look more like stone than the billowy feather of other angels, and they also lack dimensionality, looking similar to relief sculpture. But she stares in misery at the point of her lance, lifting it as if to mimic the moment when the spear wounded the heart of Jesus.


See also:
Ponte Vittorio Emmanuelle
Location:The first bridge downstream from Ponte Sant'Angelo
Metro:Ottaviano
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

Ponte Vittorio Emanuelle, opened in 1911, consists of 3 arches spanning 354 feet. It has bronze winged Victories at each end. The bridge is beautifully lit at night.

    
Ponte Vittorio Emanuelle, from part way up Castel Sant'Angelo
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Ponte Vittorio Emanuelle at night
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Ponte Sisto
Location:Just west of Tiber Island, at the northwest edge of Trastevere
Metro:None, perhaps Tram 3 from Piramide, or Tram 8 from Largo di Torre Argentina
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

Ponte Sisto is a pedestrian bridge over the Tiber River, built between 1473 and 1479 by order of Pope Sixtus VI, connecting the southwest edge of Campus Martius to Trastevere, just west of Tiber Island. The bridge reuses the foundations of the Pons Aurelius, an ancient bridge destroyed during the middle ages. Ponte Sisto is easily recognized by the round hole in its central pier, which is intended to reduce the river's pressure on the bridge during times of flooding, thereby preventing the river's fury from destroying the bridge. The bridge figures prominently in the Tiber River cruise scenes at the end of The Great Beauty.

    
Ponte Sisto, from the west, as viewed from Tiber Island
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The western side of Ponte Sisto, viewed from the shore on the Campus Martius side of the bridge
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Ponte Sisto from the northwest, on my Tiber River cruise
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Ponte Sisto from the northwest, on my Tiber River cruise
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Ponte Sisto from the southeast, after passing under it, on my Tiber River cruise
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The Fountain of Ponte Sisto is located on its southwestern (Trastevere) end. A very nice view of the sunset over Rome can be had from this bridge, since the Fountain of Ponte Sisto and the Big Fountain on the Janiculum Hill can be easily seen from the bridge, with the colors of sunset behind them.

    
Sun rays over Ponte Sisto, as sunset approaches
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Sun rays over Ponte Sisto, as sunset approaches
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Sun rays over Ponte Sisto, as sunset approaches
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Sunset over Ponte Sisto, showing the Fountain of Ponte Sisto on the far end of the bridge, and the Big Fountain and the Janiculum Hill in the background
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Ponte Cestio
Location:The bridge between Tiber Island and Trastevere to its southwest
Metro:Circo Massimo and Bus #160, or see it on my To the Forum Boarium and Beyond Walking Tour instead
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

Ponte Cestio, or Pons Cestius is a Roman stone bridge which spans the Tiber River from Tiber Island southwest to Trastevere. It was built between 62 and 27 BC, after the Ponte Fabrico was built, which spans from Tiber Island northeast to central Rome. In the 4th century the bridge was rebuilt using tuff and peperino, with a facing of travertine. Some of that travertine came from the demolished portico of the Theatre of Marcellus. When the walls along the river were built in 1888-1892, the bridge was demolished and rebuilt, since the channel it spans was widened from 157 to 260 feet. The central arch of the new bridge reused about one third of the material from the original bridge.

    
Ponte Cestio and Tiber Island, from Ponte Palatino
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Ponte Cestio, from the Trastevere end of the bridge, looking toward Tiber Island
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Ponte Cestio, from the Tiber Island end of the bridge, looking toward Trastevere
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Ponte Cestio, from the west, while walking on Tiber Island
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Ponte Cestio from the southeast, while walking on Tiber Island
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Ponte Cestio from the west, on my Tiber River cruise
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See also:
Tiber Island
Location:The island in the Tiber River, near the Theatre of Marcellus
Metro:Circo Massimo and Bus #160, or see it on my To the Forum Boarium and Beyond Walking Tour instead
Time:about 40 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

Tiber Island (Isola Tiberina) is one of two islands in the Tiber River. It is found at a bend in the river in Rome, the other is the much larger Isola Sacra near the mouth of the river at Ostia. The island is shaped like a boat, and is about 900 feet long by 220 feet wide. It has been connected to the city on both sides since antiquity. First, the Ponte Fabrico was built in 62 BC, connecting the island to the Campus Martius bank. Then Ponte Cestio was built to connect the island to the Trastevere bank. According to legend, the island formed after the fall of the tyrannical king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, in 510 BC. The angry Romans threw his body into the Tiber, it sunk and accumulated dirt and silt, eventually forming the island. An alternate version of the legend says the people destroyed his enormous stash of crops by throwing them into the Tiber, and the amount was so great that it formed the island. In 293 BC there was a plague in Rome, and the senate decided to build a temple to Aesculapius, the god of medicine and healing. They sent a delegation to Geece to obtain a statue of the deity. They also obtained a snake, and when the snake curled around the mast of their ship, they took it as a good sign. When they arrived in Rome the snake slithered off the ship and swam to Tiber Island; the Romans took that as a sign from Aesculapius to build his temple there. Or maybe they just built it there so the sick people could be isolated from the main part of the city. In any case, the temple was built and the island was modified to resemble a ship; travertine marble was added by the banks to resemble a ship's prow and stern, and an obelisk (no longer standing) was erected on the island to represent a mast. Other shrines which no longer exist were dedicated to other gods on the island over the years, but the association with Aesculapius and healing is the one that has "stuck". In the early Middle Ages, after the temple had already fallen, monks formed a hospice on the island where sick people could be treated. This grew in reputation until eventually in 1584 a real medical hospital was built which is still in operation. Today, the bridges survive (but Ponte Cestio has been rebuilt and reuses only a small amount of the original material), and small traces of the original travertine marble remains on the southern end of the island. There are some stores and a church and the afore-mentioned hospital on the island. A flight of steps leads down from the island to the river level, where a walkway runs all the way around. The walkway is enjoyed by both tourists and locals to stroll, sunbathe, and attend cultural events held on the island. The walkway also makes a great viewpoint for taking a close look at the old bridges.

    
Tiber Island
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Tiber Island, from the Trastevere end of Ponte Cestio
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Tiber Island
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Tiber Island
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See also:
Ponte Fabrico
Location:The bridge between Tiber Island and Campus Martius in central Rome to the northeast
Metro:Circo Massimo and Bus #160, or see it on my To the Forum Boarium and Beyond Walking Tour instead
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

Ponte Fabrico, or Pons Fabricius, also known as Ponte Quattro Capi, is the oldest Roman bridge which still exists today in its original state. This pedestrian-only bridge is 200 feet long, 18 feet wide, and connects Tiber Island with the Campus Martius. Tiber Island is, in turn, connected to the other side of the river, the Trastevere side, by Ponte Cestio. Ponte Fabrico consists of two wide arches supported by a central pillar, and has a smaller opening within the pillar to permit a larger flow of water when the level of the Tiber River rises. The southeastern side of the bridge is shown in the 3 photos below.

    
Tiber Island, on the left, and Ponte Fabricio, above the center, photographed from Ponte Palatino
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Tiber Island (center) and the Ponte Fabrico (right), which connects it to the Campus Martius
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Ponte Fabrico, spanning the Tiber River between Tiber Island and Campus Martius
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It was built in 62 BC to replace a wooden bridge that had been destroyed by fire. Lucius Fabricius was the officer in charge of street maintenance at the time of construction, and he had his name and title inscribed four times on the bridge, at the top of the four main arches (1st and 2nd photos below). Those four inscriptions read: "L FABRICIVS C F CVR VIAR FACIVNDVM COERAVIT", which translates as "Lucius Fabricius, Son of Gaius, Superintendent of the roads, approved that it be built". The inscription above the central smaller arch (3rd photo below) reads "EIDEMQUE PROBAVIT", or "He tested it himself". OK, so maybe Lucious Fabricius liked to blow his own horn a bit too much, but after all, the bridge has been in continuous use ever since then. The inner core of the bridge is made from tufa and peperino. That core was originally faced with travertine; some of it was replaced by bricks during a restoration in the late 17th century. The 4th photo below shows the northwestern side of the bridge. More of the original travertine remains on that side of the bridge. The 3rd and 4th photos below show the small central arch of the bridge. Each bridge over the Tiber needs a defence against the pressure of the river in times of flood, and for Ponte Fabrico, this arch provides a "safety valve" that allows the raging river to flow through the bridge rather than knocking it over.

    
Ponte Fabrico, from the west, on Tiber Island. The inscription reads 'Lucius Fabricus, son of Caius, road supervisor, cared for the making of the bridge'
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Ponte Fabrico, from the southeast, on Tiber Island. The inscription reads 'Lucius Fabricus, son of Caius, road supervisor, cared for the making of the bridge'
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Ponte Fabrico, spanning the Tiber River between Tiber Island and Campus Martius. The inscription above the small arch reads "He tested it himself".
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Ponte Fabrico, from the west, on Tiber Island
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The sides of the surface of this pedestrian-only bridge are often lined by people selling artwork, purses, scarves or trinkets to the tourists (1st and 2nd photos below). When the police approach it's fun to watch how fast these salespeople can snatch up their wares and run, since they apparently don't have permission to sell their goods legitimately. The railings on the sides of the bridge were constructed in 1679 by Pope Innocent XI, but the original consisted of a bronze rail between pilasters such as the originals that still exist on the eastern end of the bridge (the Campus Martius end). Those pilasters are sculptures of four-sided hermes (3rd photo from one side, 4th through 6th from the other side), and the modern name of the bridge, Ponte Quattro Capi (Bridge of Four Heads) comes from these ancient sculptures.

    
Ponte Fabrico
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Walking on Ponte Fabrico from Tiber Island toward Campus Martius, in Rome
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Four-headed ancient Roman carvings on the balustrade at the Campus Martius end of Ponte Fabrico
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Four-headed ancient Roman carvings on the balustrade at the Campus Martius end of Ponte Fabrico
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Four-headed ancient Roman carvings on the balustrade at the Campus Martius end of Ponte Fabrico
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Four-headed ancient Roman carvings on the balustrade at the Campus Martius end of Ponte Fabrico
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Pons Aemilius
Location:Next to the Ponte Palatino bridge over the Tiber River, near Santa Maria in Cosmedin
Metro:Circo Massimo and Bus #160, or see it on my To the Forum Boarium and Beyond Walking Tour instead
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time; I don't know whether it's lit at night

The Pons Aemilius (Ponte Emilio), now called the Ponte Rotto ("Broken bridge"), is the oldest surviving bridge in Rome. It was the first stone bridge across the Tiber River, begun in 179 BC, to replace a wooden bridge. Construction was supervised by two censors: Marcus Aemilius Laepidus and Marcus Fulvius Nobilior. It was completed in 142 BC, having taken so long because it was the first of its kind built in Rome. It was named after one of the supervisors. Since the bridge was built at a bend in the river where the water turbulence is stronger, the bridge was subject to extreme wear and had to be restored by Augustus in 12 BC, only two centuries after it had been built. It was renamed as Pons Maximus, to remark on its length; it was the longest of Rome's ancient bridges. In the 13th century, the bridge collapsed after having served for over 1200 years. The rebuilt bridge was badly damaged by floods in 1557. It was repaired, but in 1598, floods swept away two supporting piers and three of the arches, and it was never fully repaired again. In 1887, most of the rest of the bridge was destroyed during blasting to build the new banks of the river, leaving behind only one arch, which remains in the river. It is most easily observed from the Ponte Palatino which runs next to it.

    
Pons Aemilius, the oldest surviving bridge in Rome, from Ponte Palatino (Tiber Island in the background)
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Pons Aemilius, the oldest surviving bridge in Rome, from Ponte Palatino
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Pons Aemilius, from the north, from the southeast end of Tiber Island, with Ponte Palatino behind it and the outlet of the Cloaca Maxima at the left edge
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Ponte Palatino
Location:Bridge across the Tiber River, from near Santa Maria in Cosmedin to Trastevere
Metro:Circo Massimo and Bus #160, or see it on my To the Forum Boarium and Beyond Walking Tour instead
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

The Ponte Palatino is an iron bridge across the Tiber River resting on 4 stone pillars which spans from near Santa Maria in Cosmedin to Trastevere. It was built between 1886 and 1890, when most of the Pons Aemilius was swept away by a flood. It is one of Rome's longest bridges (510 feet), but not one of its most picturesque ones. The name comes from the Palatine Hill nearby to the north. On the Palatine side of the bridge is the Forum Boarium (the area around Santa Maria in Cosmedin), and the outlet of the still functioning Cloaca Maxima can be found here. From the bridge, you can see the last remaining arch of the Pons Aemilius and Tiber Island.

    
Ponte Palatino is the bridge in the right third of this image
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Under Ponte Palatino
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Ponte Palatino, with Pons Aemilius in front of it on the right, and the outlet of the Cloaca Maxima behind it on the left, taken from on Ponte Fabrico
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