General Information
Ponte do Arco  
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  • Name: Bridge of Arco
  • Typology: Bridge
  • Classification: Public Interest Building, by Decree 28/82, DR 47 of 26th February 1982
  • Municipality: Marco de Canaveses
  • Visiting Hours: Free 
  • Entrance Fee: Free 
  • Support Services:
  • Telephone : 255 810 706 / 918 116 488   
  • Fax: 255 810 709   
  • E-Mail: rotadoromanico@valsousa.pt   
  • Web: www.rotadoromanico.com   
  • Location:
    Rua do Arco, Folhada, Marco de Canaveses, Porto.
  • Geographic Coordinates: 41° 13' 19.72" N / 8° 5' 17.22" O 
History
History
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Bridge of Arco (Photo: © SIPA – IHRU)The Bridge of Arco, over the river Ovelha, connects the banks of the parishes of Folhada and of Várzea de Ovelha e Aliviada, which currently belong to the municipality of Marco de Canaveses. Until the 19th century, it was at the centre of the municipality of Gouveia.

Despite the difficulties in dating the time period in which it was built, we can suggest that this might be a late building corresponding to the period of the late Middle Ages or early Modern Age, when commuting and occasional medium-distance travelling (such as processions) or obtaining sacraments to churches with a tabernacle required better roads and, consequently, appropriate crossings.

To reinforce the idea, we should stress that this Bridge was located at the intersection of multiple communication routes of medieval and modern times: the road connecting the Bridge of Canaveses with the road from Amarante to Mesão Frio featured a section that went through Várzea de Ovelha towards the Bridge of Arco.

Nearby, this road was joined by another section that came from the Church of Folhada. Once the crossing was made, the route continued towards the Church of the Saviour of Monte, where it joined another road that came from Canaveses and headed towards Amarante.

Chronology
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1758 - The abbot of Folhada mentions and describes the Bridge of Arco;

1982 - By Decree no. 28 from February 26th, the Bridge of Arco was considered as a Building of Public Interest;

1986 - Because it was a car passageway, the bridge suffers a few setbacks, related to its parapet and paving;

2010 - Integration of the Bridge of Arco in the Route of the Romanesque;

2015 - Intervention for the conservation and protection of the Bridge of Arco, under the scope of the Route of the Romanesque.

Specialities
Architecture
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With a simple structure, the Bridge of Arco comprises a single arch, with a trestle-shaped elevation, taking advantage of the rocky outcrops on both banks, which grant it sturdiness and verticality.

A breakwater was added to the south bank of the structure, placed against its upstream face, to allow it to withstand the impact of debris carried by strong currents. Close to this breakwater, on the north side, the Bridge features an opening, with a slightly rounded rectangular shape (a bit lower than the breakwater), which allows passing through it.

Due to the persistence of this trestle-shaped model and the significant use of round or broken arches as supporting elements, it becomes difficult to prove that this is a Romanesque construction merely by making a simple reading of its structure.

The absence of initials, despite not being decisive, would aid in its dating. For the time being, we are not able to find these signals in the wall faces of the Bridge, despite the fact that it obeys the common rules of construction of Romanesque crossings.

On the north side of the right bank, aligned with the platform, we find a few "Alminhas" [small shrines], simple monuments of religious piety, often built close to rural routes or national roads with the intention, for example, of indicating the routes that led to the region's most important sanctuaries and pilgrimages.

Restoration and Enhancement
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Restoration and Enhancement of the Bridge of Arco (Photo: © SIPA – IHRU)In 1977, the request for the Bridge to be classified as Building of Public Interest was filed, based on the strategic location where it stood, on its possible connection to neighbouring archaeological sites, on the traditions and legends that surrounded it and on the fact that, from the architectural point of view, it is "a good example of the Romanesque period."

The classification process ended on February 26th, 1982 when, through the Decree no.28, published in the Governmental Gazette, the Bridge of Arco was deemed a Building of Public Interest.

It turns out that the classification was not enough to protect it. The fact that it is used by motor vehicles has a negative impact in its preservation, and there was even a partial collapse the pavement.

Despite having undergone some restoration works in the 1980s, it remained open to vehicle traffic and, therefore, subject to all the sources of deterioration it causes.

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Bibliography

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ALMEIDA, Carlos Alberto Ferreira de - Vias medievais entre Douro e Minho. Porto: Faculdade de Letras, 1968.

BRAVO, José Franco - [Memória Paroquial de] Folhada [Manuscrito]. 1758. Acessível em ANTT, Lisboa. PT-TT-MPRQ15-98.

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RIBEIRO, Orlando - Portugal, o Mediterrâneo e o Atlântico: estudo geográfico. Lisboa: Letra Livre, 2011. ISBN 978-989-8268-10-5.

SILVA, João Belmiro Pinto da - S. Martinho de Aliviada e as pontes do Diabo. In Jornadas de Estudo de Marco de Canaveses. Marco de Canaveses: Câmara Municipal de Marco de Canaveses, 1992. ISBN 972-95492-2-2. Vol. 1, p. 81-86.

TRANT, Nicolau - [Mappa do distrito entre os rios Douro e Minho feito pela ordem do Ilm.º e Exm.º Snr Nicolau Trant, brigadeiro encarregado do governo das armas do partido do Porto, anno 1813] [Material cartográfico]. Escala [1:193000]. 1861. Lisboa.

VITERBO, Joaquim de Santa Rosa de, O.F.M.- Elucidario das palavras, termos e frases que em Portugal antigamente se usaram. Lisboa: A. J. Fernandes Lopes, 1865.

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