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Bridge of Santa Trinita

By Florence Expert: Elena, Italy, March 2012

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From the wonderful terrace offered by the Ponte Vecchio, looking downstream you can admire one of the most beautiful and elegant Italian bridges: the Bridge of Santa Trinita. Dedicated to the Holy Trinity, the bridge was built in 1252, patronized by the Frescobaldi family who needed a bridge connecting the right side of the river with the left side where they had their residences.

The bridge was swept away many times by floods of the Arno and always rebuilt. Its actual and last shape follows the project realized by Bartolomeo Ammannati in 1567. This is the oldest elliptical arch bridge in the world, and it seems that the Ammannati took suggestions from Michelangelo who projected the three modern parabolic arches, the so called catenary curves.

Upside down, this is the curve assumed by a chain under its own weight when supported only at its ends. This is not only an elegant shape which anticipates the baroque trends, but also has a strong static resistance.

The bridge is made in pietra forte, a golden-colored stone used for many palaces and constructions in Florence and its pillars of support are carved like a ship's bow, sharp and slim in order to dodge the logs carried by the floods.

Four allegoric sculptures stand at the two ends of the bridge and represent the four seasons. These were not part of the original project but were realized by different sculptors and put on the bridge later.

The bridge was destroyed by the Germans during the Second World War and re built in 1952. This was a big and affectionate restoration effort rather than a re-building. Most of the bridge is made up of its original stones. Hundreds of small and big fragmented pieces found in the neighborhood of the bridge were examined. One of the stones of the bridge was even found in the Church of Carmine, on the other side of the Arno, hundreds of meters from the bridge in the center of the San Frediano area.

Stones, marble curls, pilasters and profiles, gray stone sheets, sculptures' fragments of the body of the Four Seasons sculptures were fished out of the river. Only one sculpture returned horribly disfigured: Spring, which was found without the head and an arm.

This is the woman on the right side of the river who holds a baskets full of flowers and fruits. Carved by Pietro Francavilla for the gardens of the Acciaoli family who had their residences in the area, she was the set on the bridge together with the others sculptures. If you look at it carefully she is not exactly beautiful (my excuses to Mr. Francavilla). Nevertheless she is a symbol for the city of Florence with a very important meaning for the population. You can still see the injury between the bust and the neck, the exact point of the traumatic detachment of the head from the body.

After the new bridge's inauguration on May 16th, 1958 the missing head of the Spring was the protagonist of true and false stories about its finding. Witnesses said they had seen a soldier of the Allied Forces who, digging amongst the ruins near the river, had found and stolen the head.

The story of an advertisement with photos said “Have you ever seen this woman? She is about 350 years old, marble white skin, 20 pounds of weight. 3000 Dollars reward to the person who will report about her.” A famous American pens producer company published this announcement in almost half of the world but nobody answered.

In the sharp air of the morning of October 6th 1961 Timoteo Lucaroni from Piacenza was involved in a dig of the river's shore with a drag on behalf of the company which had the contract for this works. About 100 meters from the bridge on the right side of Lungarno Corsini he felt that his bucket hit something, maybe a big stone. He set down the materials and together with sand and gravel he saw a round white stone rolling down: it was the head of the Spring!

The news ran along the Arno River, through the narrow streets of the city arrived to Palazzo Vecchio, entering inside the Salone dei Cinquecento and exploded on the newspapers of the  world. The head was exposed in the courtyard of Palazzo Vecchio and received the homage of the Florentines who passed in front of it deeply moved as pilgrims in front of a relic.

The head of the Spring had been restored and put at its original place with a solemn ceremony, but the wound of the detachments is still visible and always alive in our memories.

Elena

Photo Courtesy of sailko via Wikipedia.

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