Photos finally added, sorry for the tardiness.
Die Römerbrücke – die natürlich keine ist. It is not a “Roman” bridge, simply because the Romans did not come to this area, at least they did not build something here. The very end of the Roman Empire, the limes Germanicus (Ger., Eng., there’s a map), consisted of the river Moenus from Seligenstadt to Miltenberg, then left the river and went South over land. Some scholars of the 19th century nursed the idea that the fortress here would be based on a Roman military installation, but there is no proof for this claim and modern archaeology dismisses this idea.
Roughly one kilometer from the centre of my village in North-Eastern direction the Römerbrücke stands. Here once run a trading road from Würzburg to Bamberg ; it was a part of the larger connection between the free, important & rich cities of the Reich Frankfurt am Main and Nürnberg, on a larger scale of the route from Paris to Prague. The road came up from the valley of the river Main & the city of Würzburg and crossed the valley of a small creek called Haslach ; it climbed up from the muddy valley via the Roßsteige (horses’ steep) and then went over land to the Steigerwald, generally in Eastern direction.
This gradient was pretty steep, additional horses needed to be harnessed to the coaches, it must have been a drag.
The 18th century brought us new roads, standardised in a way, the new chaussee. The Herzog happily embraced this idea and built new roads in his dukedom : Adam Friedrich von Seinsheim (1708-1779) (Ger., Eng.) commissioned the bridge in 1764. In fact it is not a single bridge that was built, but a 220 meter long earthen dam (causeway ?) that includes a bridge construction spanning the Haslach and thus “flattens” the gradient of the commercially important trading route. It simply makes the whole thing more viable. The dam is up to eight meters high, the bridge itself nearly 19 meters broad, the road is four to five meters wide.
The German description is “einfeldrige Bruchsteinbogenbrücke” – sorry, I can not translate this.
The importance of these new chaussees, in German Kunststrassen, artificial roads, can not be rated highly enough. In fact it is the first time since the Romans that a kind of standardised road system is built on a European scale. These roads allow fast and reliable traffic for goods, persons, mail, and of course for the movement of troops. They demand and cause standardisation, because the “Chauseeordnung” describes what format and what weight cars and coaches can have that finally travel on them. These roads demand a lot of investment, not only in building and construction as in our bridge here, but also in maintainance – in regular distances Chaussehäuser were erected where the Chaussewärter, the keeper, was stationed. He had to take care of a certain stretch of the road, and sometimes had to collect the road-tax too.
The bridge, the whole construction, was finished after three years and was open for traffic in 1766. It was used only for three years : In 1769 the building was closed for traffic because the foundations settled in the muddy subfloor, the Haslach simply did not like that thing. Cracks opened & it was deemed to dangerous to have heavy coaches rolling over it.
The planning went on and in the following year the whole road was relocated & shifted from this place to the North (on the other bank of the Haslach-creek), it finally run through the next village – avoiding the steep gradient & the marshy area altogether. The bridge was not repaired, but in contrary used as stone quarry to build the new road. It became finally obsolete for long distant travel when in the middle of the 19th century the railway was built – to this day the line goes in some hundred meters distance. The coaches had finally served its times.
The bridge was of course still used locally, only in 1960 it was closed for pedestrians. There was a bit of argument over the decades between the local community and the Bavarian state. The village was always poor & in debts and did not want to carry the Baulast, the public easement (and the responsibility) for the disused construction. Finally the whole ensemble was put on the Denkmalliste, the list of landmarks, and today the community has to take care for maintainance & safety.
And why is it called a “Roman” bridge ? Two explanations are given in literature : One says it’s because the road finally leads up to the Römer (Ger., Eng.) in Frankfurt – ah bah, who cares for Frankfurt here anyway ? The other says that the whole thing looks so nice and romantic-ruinous in the moonlight, ach – so Roman, simply … ; …
Some pictures will follow tomorrow.
It’s the day after tomorrow – I think übermorgen is a wonderful word. So I am writing from the future …
Here are some pictures of the featured building. The first gives an impression of the whole thing. We stand on the Southern side of the dam and look in Eastern direction.
Standing on the Southern side of the dam looking in Eastern direction
Turning around and going in Western direction there is finally a possibility to walk on the dam if only for a short stretch. Then they have planted a lot of dense & thorny bushes, small trees and high grass hinder the careless trespasser.
Standing on the dam looking in Easter direction. This is a second, smaller arch that is closed for any kind of traffic
Looking from the Northern side in Easter direction. The whole construction was cut free from woods and brushes lately ; I have read in the local that some preservation measures are necessary.
Standing on the North side looking East
And finally we are under the bridge.
Under the bridge. No Stonemason’s mark, no coat of arms, no graffiti, no nothing – just stones. Very nice.
And one last view : This friendly little apple tree is a gift from the French twin village in the Calvados. It’s still a long way until we’ll have Franconian Calva.
Roman bridge and the promise of Franconian Calvados