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Ponte Sanguinario

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Sanguinario Bridge is in the center of Spoleto below Piazza Vittorio and near the Roman amphitheater. Built in Roman times, supposedly in the 1st century BC, the bridge is formed by three deep circular arches built of square blocks of travertine marble, a very solid stone with great resistance to wear over time. It was built during the reign of the emperor Augustus to cross the Tessino River along the Flaminian Road; however, over the centuries the riverbed shifted to the north so that at a certain point it had no function and later flooding filled and buried it.

It was discovered in 1817 during restoration works commissioned by the Papal State, and the works were hastily concluded in 1820 in time for a visit to Spoleto by the Austrian Emperor Franz II.

There are various legends surrounding the name of the bridge. Some claim that religious martyrs were beheaded there and their heads thrown in the river. Another legend claims that the bodies of men who died fighting in the amphitheater were thrown from the bridge. It is also said that in 253 BC, the Roman emperor Romano Emiliano was killed nearby by his own soldiers after reigning for only three months.

The version that most scholars accredit to truth regarding the bridge’s name is that concerning the martyr San Ponziano, patron saint of Spoleto. In the 2nd century BC, under the reign of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, there lived in Spoleto a young noble man called Ponziano who claimed God came to him in a dream and asked him to become His servant. With no second thoughts, he converted and began preaching about Christianity. Marcus Aurelius’ anti-Christ policies were unwavering, and when his soldiers arrived in Spoleto Ponziano was persecuted, first by being thrown to the lions in the amphitheater, but they didn’t go near him; then by being thrown onto hot coals but they didn’t burn him, and finally by being beheaded on the bridge. When his head fell to the ground, it began spewing pure water; and it is on that spot that the church dedicated to him was built.

In more recent times, it has been said that the bridge’s name is a distortion of the word “sandapilarius,” the name of one of the doors to the Roman amphitheater or that it comes from the name of the Sanguineto creek that runs into the Tessino River.

There is a short ramp of stairs that visitors can take to see the bridge, but only two of the arches are visible due to ongoing excavation works.

After a visit to the bridge and to other beautiful sites in Spoleto, you can get an idea of how many legends still surround the town’s history perhaps by stopping at some of the cafes and restaurants to sample typical foods and wine.

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