It is located between two bends of the River Tajo, which it crosses, in the town of Alcántara in Cáceres, very close to the border with Portugal. Construction began in 75 and was completed around 103 and 104 by the Roman architect Cayo Julio Lacer, to allow the continuation of the Roman road that connected the city of Norba Caesarina, Cáceres, with Conimbriga, the ancient Roman city of Hispania in the province of Lusitania, to reach the city of Bracara Augusta, Braga. The Roman Bridge of Alcantara is one of the most important works of engineering in Roman Hispania and one of the most relevant Roman bridges that remain today in the world. Its name was given by Arabs "al-Qantarat", the Bridge. As it is located in a strategic enclave, the Roman Bridge of Alcantara has suffered in its stones the vicissitudes of the fights and battles between the different kingdoms that took place in its surroundings.
When Fernando II took Alcántara from the Muslims at the time of the Reconquest, the first arch closest to the Temple was cut. Carlos V, in the year 1543, repaired it and reformed the profile of the central arch. During the War of Restoration, between the kingdoms of Portugal and España, in 1648, was the second arch on the right bank that was cut, arch that in 1809 in the War of Independence Portuguese and English troops, to prevent the advance of the French, again destroyed and it was not until 1860, during the reign of Isabel II when it was restored. In 1969 the foundations of the central pillars could be consolidated as the Tagus riverbed was temporarily without water due to the work on the Alcántara Reservoir. The complex of the Roman Bridge of Alcántara, bridge, triumphal arch and temple, was declared a National Monument in 1924.
The bridge is 194 metres long. In the centre of the bridge, on the central pillar, there is a triumphal arch crowned by a sixteenth-century frieze, a plaque with an inscription dedicated to Trajan, and another plaque with the names of the Lusitanian municipalities that contributed to the work, Igaeditani, Lancienses, Oppidani, Talori, Interannienses, etc.
The triumphal arch shows the shield of the two-headed eagle, which was placed here in the time of Carlos V, when it was also crenellated, thus giving it a more defensive character. At the end of the bridge closest to the city of Alcántara is the small temple dedicated to the emperor Trajano and the gods of Rome by Cayo Julio Lacer, in the twelfth century was Christianized under the invocation of San Julián. At the other end is the so-called Tower of Gold, a defensive tower built in the eighteenth century that is the last vestige of the defenses that were attached to the bridge. This impressive and ancient bridge, still in use today, causes immense astonishment and admiration to those who contemplate it, both from above and from the riverbank, for its great beauty and majesty, while evoking scenes from other times.
When Cayo Julio Lacer built the Roman Bridge of Alcantara he also built a small temple at his side dedicated to the gods and the emperor Trajan because he wanted to avoid the wrath of the gods, since according to the beliefs, crossing a river without getting wet was against the established natural order. This bridge, according to the inscription, "... will last as long as the world lasts".
It was in the year 1475. During the struggles between Castilians and Portuguese, as a defense, and to prevent the Portuguese king from crossing the bridge, it was thought to collapse part of it again, but there is so much admiration that this great work has caused in own and strangers, that the King of Portugal Alfonso V "the Africano" sent to his enemy and opponent, the Duke of Villahermosa, to say that he did not care, he would give a detour, because "he did not want the kingdom of Castilla with that building less".
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According to the local people, when the godo King Rodrigo, in his flight from the Moors, was betrayed and killed at Alcántara, his sword remained for a long time hanging on the highest part of the bridge where no one could take it. Others speak of a golden sword being buried on the bridge, who knows? Perhaps that is why when the Arabs arrived in Alcantara they called it Kantara As-Saif, the Bridge of the Sword.
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The EX-117 road reaches Alcántara, linking it with Portugal and Piedras Albas on the one hand and with Villa del Rey, Brozas, Navas del Madroño, Arroyo de la Luz and Malpartida de Cáceres on the other. The local road CC-113 also reaches Alcántara, connecting it with Mata de Alcántara and Garrovillas de Alconétar. In addition Alcántara has a bus service that from Monday to Friday connects it with the capital Cáceres.
The Roman Bridge of Alcantara can be found on the EX-117 road, which crosses it, just before its arrival in Alcantara from Piedras Albas, or shortly after passing through the town of Alcantara, depending on whether you arrive in one direction or the other. On both sides of the bridge we will have a parking lot where we can park our vehicle to visit it.
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