Some pictures recently taken of this monumental structure with 26 arches of which only the 15 date from Roman times. Salamanca’s Roman Bridge is one of the best preserved in the Iberian Peninsula. It was built in the first century AD and integrated the famous route between Emerita and Asturica, commonly known as «Via de la Plata». The monument highlights all the principles of Roman engineering for bridge construction, such as modularity; it’s 6 m wide allowing two-way traffic; holes on the borders allowed rainwater to flow out of the bridge. The ashlars have the typical forfex marks, demonstrating the use of mechanical tools for their positioning of the granite which by way was extracted 75 km from here (!), in the quarries of «Los Santos» close to Béjar.
«Ponte de Barreiros», also known as «Ponte da Azenha» or «Ponte de Ronfes» is a bridge over the Leça River between Araújo and Maia, next to the National road EN13; This bridge was part of an old route linking Cale (Porto) to Limia (today Ponte de Lima) crossing the Cávado river in Barcelos, referred as “karraria antiqua” in medieval documents. The way is much older though with many pre-Roman settlements scattered along the way. It takes advantage of the natural corridors that exist between the rivers Douro and Lima and became a secondary road on the Roman network as no milestones were found on this route. The possible explanation for this could be in the fact that it misses the regional capital Bracara Augusta, the focal point for all main routes of the region back then. In medieval times became a major route to Santiago de Compostela and is still today the main way followed by pilgrims. Despite the rampant urbanisation It’s still possible to follow long sections the old way. The bridge suffered several reconstructions and repairs until reaching its present configuration, but the integration of some cushioned ashlars in the arch staves on the right bank (visible in the photo) proves the reuse of materials from the previous Roman bridge. Coordinates: 41.224711, -8.631817
In the area of the city of Vila Nova de Famalicão there are two milestones related to the Via Bracara Augusta – Cale that passes close. One is now serving as decorative element at the city park in the former «Quinta da Devesa» and the following letter could still be read: […] CAES […] AELIO […] RIANO […] N? NO […] RACAR (A) […] III (source)
Although very truncated, it is still possible to read the reference to Braga and the mileage count on the two last lines. This numeral suggests that it could indicate the 13th mile since Braga which is attained next to the Romanesque Church of Santiago de Antas in Famalicão; Coordinates: 41.409888, -8.507708
Another possible milestone is now outside the private chapel of the family house of «Quinta do Vinhal» close to the train station of Famalicão and it is visible from the road. Coordinates: 41.412486, -8.527252
Finally, the third picture refers to a possible fragment of milestone that is currently integrated into the western wall of the Cambonian Seminary next to the Church of Santiago das Antas; Rodriguez Colmenero proposed that this milestone is the same mentioned by Contador de Argote serving as the base of the cross that existed here, and dedicated to Emperor Caracalla (CIL II 4741). Coordinates: 41.402250, -8.510186
This impressive cross engraved in a boulder in the late 11th century is located on the left bank of Ave river and about 300 m from Lagoncinha Bridge. It is related to the demarcation of a large property (“Couto”) belonging to the Monastery of Santo Tirso. It could be related to this crossing point of the Ave river in Roman times since the Lagoncinha Bridge it’s a medieval construction with no signs of any Roman materials. There’s also a reference to an “old bridge” here in a document of the Monastery establishing the boundaries of the “Couto”. Coordinates: 41.348666, -8.515968
In the village of Segura (Idanha-a-Nova) there are several columns scattered around the village that may be milestones of the Roman road that passed through here to Merida. Within the village there are two small columns and at least one of them (near the South Gate) has the typical dimensions of these monuments. Leaving the village to the north via the Roman road that passes at the base of the Calvary hill, there are several columns at the side of the road and some tens of meters later another set of these columns showing signs of reuse as they present an orifice at the top and signs of being re-shaped; at least some of them are certainly milestones since they have the typical quadrangular base, an indicative feature that these columns were meant to be buried. These milestones are still unpublished so I can’t say anything more about their provenance , their reuse or why were they gathered here. Probably they will disappear soon due to their state of neglect. For when the appreciation of this important monuments?
One of the Roman roads that departed from the Roman city of Ammaia (S. Salvador de Aramenha, Marvão) crossed the Roman Bridge of the Madalena and went uphill along this stretch of the road in a site called «Carris». This route continues for a few kilometres until it meets the modern road EN359, perhaps with continuation towards Évora through Portalegre. Coordinates: 39.354269,-7.401371
Pictures I took of the famous Segovia aqueduct, one of the great works of Roman engineering that has survived to this day. Note the absence of mortars between blocks and the markings of forfex confirming the use of machinery for lifting and positioning the various building elements. Another Roman construction that has been challenges the passage of time for centuries.
This bridge is located in the place of Roçadas in Argoncilhe (Santa Maria da Feira). It was probably on the route connecting Cale (Porto) to Vissaium (Viseu). its present form is a rough construction not that all, but given its integration in this ancient path, it origins could be much older. An old section of the road can still be seem next to the bridge. Coordinates: 41.025388, -8.520372
Picture of a milestone that is today next to Chapel of St. Brissos (Santiago do Escoural, Montemor-o-Novo). It is likely that this milestone was displaced from the Roman road between Alcácer do Sal and Évora on the route to Mérida, which ran a little further south but it could be signalling another still unknown route. Photo kindly sent by Paulo Manços. Coordinates: 38.526076,-8.102848
The fall of the Vouga Bridge on November 12 2011 was not a surprise due to the advanced state of degradation of the bridge’s pillars. What is surprising is the willingness of the municipality to demolish the bridge (!), a decision that I hope will be overturned because this bridge has a great patrimonial value that cannot be obliterated. The current bridge is the result of successive repairs, the last one was its enlargement in the 1930s to adapt it to modern traffic. We know that its construction was ordered by D. João III in 1529 and that it was repaired in 1713 by order of D. João V given to the bridge its current configuration. In fact the current bridge was built on the structure of an earlier medieval bridge from which the pillars and arches are still visible, as can be seen in the picture above. Coordinates: 40.640735,-8.465931
The existence here of an early Roman construction is plausible because this was the crossing point of the main road connecting Bracara Augusta (Braga) to Olisipo (Lisbon). In fact, on a hilltop overlooking this passage there’s an important archaeological site known as «Cabeço do Vouga» where we can see a strong Roman construction built over a pre-Roman settlement. This could be the location of Talabriga, a road station mentioned in Anthony’s Itinerary. Coordinates: 40.637037, -8.463959
The Diplomata et Chartae is a compilation of documents from the 9th to the 12th centuries collected in abbeys and monasteries’ libraries. These are mainly legal documents stating the agreement established between parts. These documents were organised by Portuguese writer Alexandre Herculano and later published by the Royal Academy of Sciences of Lisbon between 1856 and 1888 in a four volume work entitled the «Portugaliae Monumenta Historica», containing many of the extant medieval manuscripts. Mostly are property selling or donation, as back then all notary acts were performed by the church. These properties were commonly delimited by ancient public roads that are referred in the documents with names such as «via publica», «karraria antiqua», or «Moorish roads». These designations clearly indicates that they were already used for many centuries before, eventually since Roman times. Given that few roads were built from the late Roman period to the ninth century, it is very likely that these are in fact references to roads already operational during Roman times, turning these documents an important source of information for the study of the Roman network.
This set of 5 milestones belonging to the Roman road between Bracara Augusta (Braga) and Tuda (Tui) were found by the public road company «Estradas de Portugal» while doing rehabilitation works. They are now together on the new premises of the company on the number 1114 of the national road EN203 in Darque. It was time to return these “walking” milestones to their places of origin where they would be more valued more than on the grounds of a compound without public access. Coordinates: 41.681401, -8.770130
Bibliography: RODRIGUEZ COLMENERO, Antonio; FERRER SIERRA, Santiago; ÁLVAREZ ASOREY, Rubén D. (2004) – “Miliarios e outras inscricións viarias romanas no noroeste hispánico ”. Lugo: Consello da Cultura Galega. (available on this link)
Pictures of the milestone dedicated to Emperor Nerva on display on one of the entrances to the cloister of Braga’s Cathedral together with other Roman materials. This fragment was found in a farm called «Quinta do Outeiro» on the outskirts of the city in Frossos. The picture shows the lateral cut resulting from its reuse as a mill stone st the farm. The milestone was surely dislocated from its original position next to the Roman road connecting Bracara Augusta (Braga) to Tuda (Tui) and by its position it indicated 2 miles to Bracara Augusta.
The hypothesis of a Roman bridge over the Mondego river in Tábua municipality is based on a stone inscription integrated in a wall of a private house in Direita street in Póvoa de Midões: «Imp. Tito VIII. Co (n) s / [p/f]ontem aedificavit yesterday / Severus Vituli f. ». The inscription is dedicated to Emperor Titus in the year 80 (his 8th consulate) referring apparently the construction of a bridge by Severus, son of Vituli. Difficulties in reading the initial “P” led some authors to read “Fontem” (fountain) instead of “Pontem” (bridge), but given the rounded top of the letter (see right photo) it may be indeed the letter “P”. Since the place is close to the Mondego, the bridge could be over this river, probably in a site called «Porto de Midões». One document from the year 1169 mentions the reamains of a «pontem lapideum» (stone bridge) at this site, eventually (in Livro Preto da Sé de Coimbra Doc. 60).
In September, during another visit to the Roman city of Bobadela (Oliveira do Hospital), I was surprised by the result of the recent excavations in the courtyard of a 16th century house: nothing less than the remains of part of the Roman forum of the city, corresponding to its western end, thus allowing to define the dimensions of this gigantic building as they complement the well-known remains near the church corresponding to its eastern end. Columns and other building elements have been arranged at the site of the find, and their high numbers now make it possible to think of a possible partial reconstruction of the building which would be another milestone in the recovery of the former regional capital which is now a quiet village.
Last August I visited the «Paes Teles Archive» Foundation in the village of Ervedal (Avis), installed in the house Mário Saa, that displays the collection of Roman materials collected by this researcher. The highlights of the collection are the altar inscription (ara) dedicated to the «Lares Viales» (road deities) found by Saa in a site called «Monte das Esquilas» (Monforte), photo on the right, and two milestones, one dedicated to Emperor Constantine the Great found in «Casal da Pocariça» (Lagoa Grande, Bemposta, Abrantes), on the middle; the other is dedicated to Emperor Tacitus found next to the Chapel of Our Lady of Prazeres (Vale de Açor, Ponte de Sor), in the left picture. This meritorious foundation still preserves its interesting library and even publishes with some regularity a magazine about culture and heritage called “Vialibus” . A unique case in Portugal that is worth visiting. Coordinates: 39.043472, -7.813889
Pictures of the milestones on display at the excellent Vila Viçosa Archaeological Museum: On the left the milestone dedicated to Emperor Constans found close to town and on the right, the milestone dedicated to Emperor Marcus Aurelius found in «Herdade de Alcobaça» close to the village of Vila Fernando (Elvas). These milestones would belong to Itinerary XII between Lisbon and Merida that passed in Évora.
Pictures of an unpublished milestone on the Roman road linking Braga to Tui. It was reused as pillar of a balcony in a rustic house located in the village of Gosendos, parish of Sapardos, municipality of Vila Nova de Cerveira, 34 miles north of Braga. This milestone is about 2 m high and its faces have been thinned out so no trace of letters could be seen now. In the same place there are also two pig sinks made of a granite very similar to the milestone and with a diameter of about 0.5 m that may have been excavated from fragments of other milestones as in the case of the milestone found in the village of Romarigães. The photos were kindly sent by Ricardo Nunes. Coordinates: 41.922896, -8.662120
The construction of the Chapel of S. Bartolomeu das Antas near Rubiães reused 6 milestones found on the region; two of them support the chapel porch, one dedicated to Magnentius signalling 31 miles to Bracara Augusta (Braga) while the other is dedicated to Nerva indicating 36 miles. The remaining milestones are buried in upright position around the chapel: one dedicated to Julian of mile 33, one to MaximinusThrax and his son Maximus, one to Maximinus Daia with unreadable miles and finally one without inscription. Pictures of the milestones in the Chapel of S. Bartolomeu sent by Ricardo Nunes. Coordinates: 41.899527, -8.642961
Photos send by Paulo Manços of a fragmented milestone found in a site called «Moinho da Esparragosa» in the outskirts of Évora. This milestone was signalling most probably the route connecting Évora to the Lisbon.