General Information
Bridge of Vilela  
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  • Name: Bridge of Vilela
  • Typology: Bridge
  • Classification: Submitted to classification
  • Municipality: Lousada
  • Visiting Hours: Free 
  • Entrance Fee: Free 
  • Support Services:
  • Telephone : +351 255 810 706 / +351 918 116 488 
  • Fax: +351 255 810 709 
  • E-Mail: rotadoromanico@valsousa.pt  
  • Web: www.rotadoromanico.com 
  • Location:
    Lugar de Vilela, Aveleda, Lousada, Porto.
  • How to Get Here:

     

  • Geographic Coordinates: 41° 16' 8.53" N / 8° 14' 53.31" W 
History
History
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Bridge of Vilela Considering the technical and building characteristics, the Bridge of Vilela should date from the 17th-18th centuries, given that it already existed in 1758, because it is mentioned in the "Memórias Paroquiais" [Parish Memorandum].

The Bridge was used to ensure the crossing of the River Sousa between Vilela, Vilar de Nuste and Cartão.

Legends and Curiosities
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The medieval period was characterised by a strong demographic expansion, by the Crusades, pilgrimages and a greater mobility of people. The economy grew and developed along with social and cultural changes. The density of land use increased as a result of higher valuing of the land.

The economy was based on agriculture, but the production of flax and wool for textile production was also significant. The polycultures of the land were mainly for subsistence, with bread as the symbol and source of nourishment.

Bridge of Vilela

Given this scenario, the transport of goods and products, especially those of higher volume and weight, gained particular relevance in the economy of the period. The main means of transport was the cart pulled by oxen.

The existence of communication routes and the development of means of transport enabled the construction of magnificent Romanesque buildings, the sharing of teams of builders and maximised the stylistic influences.

As referred to by Carlos Almeida, the roads and paths are like "veins of a body," where "the communities organize the occupation and use of its territory, which reflects the level of their social life and its economy."

In this context of mobility, the construction of bridges naturally achieved a wide development in the medieval period, which paid great attention to them.

The history of the construction of bridges, from the late 11th century to the 14th century, reveals that these were acts of piety, with kings, churchmen and nobleman bequeathing, in their wills and final wishes, significant donations so that these bridges would rise. These actions enabled the exponential construction of bridges in the medieval period.

For the construction of medieval bridges, people sought good foundations and firm sites, as referred to by Almeida, hence the fact that they present better resistance to time and floods.

The works, carried out on a few donations, were organized through a sort of brotherhood, which attempted to collect the necessary funds. Many of these officers on charge were ultimately sanctified, fruit of the pious nature that symbolized the erection of this type of construction.

Chronology
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1998 - The Bridge of Vilela is included in the Route of the Romanesque of Vale do Sousa;

2011 - Works for the general conservation of the Bridge, under the scope of the Route of the Romanesque.

Specialities
Architecture
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This road work is a public example of public civil architecture, comprised of a flat Bridge platform, with rampant ends, sitting on four equal round arches.
 
The monument is built in granite stone, with four round arches, supported by three blind pillars reinforced with triangular cut-waters upstream and square piers downstream. The spans of the two lateral arches are currently shoaled.

The platform is horizontal upon the central arches and prancing on the tops, and is paved with granite slabs. This Bridge’s panels do not present any initials, an element often present in medieval bridges.

Surroundings
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In the scope of the Study for the Enhancement and Protection of the Monuments of the Route of the Romanesque of the Vale do Sousa, in which the guidelines and framework of the subsequent development of technical projects for implementation and respective works for the enhancement and protection of the surroundings were defined, the conditions considered most relevant for the preservation and requalification of the surroundings were described.

The aim of this Study is to preserve the context in which these are integrated, namely the integration of constraints on legal provisions - such as Special Protection Areas - restricting urban interventions that may endanger the integrity of the surroundings.

Surroundings of the Bridge of Vilela

We also proceeded to the definition of areas and interventions of general nature to take into account in the surroundings, in order to extend the planning to a wider area and allow better circulation of tourists in the region.

Finally, the Study defined the priority interventions to be carried out in the surroundings, to allow the stabilization of the territories and, simultaneously, correct and/or create structures and supporting infrastructures.

The cleanliness of the river is crucial for the protection of the heritage. The Bridge of Vilela is affected by the fence and yard existing on the right bank of the River Sousa, together with the deposit of debris resulting from demolition and shelters for the transformation of granite.

Another element to refurbish is the awning of the restaurant on the left bank, whose scale and tonality have a negative effect in the surroundings.

Restoration and Enhancement
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The Bridge of Vilela was subject to works of conservation and consolidation of the batters and pavement, including the treatment of the street providing access to both banks and drainage of rainwater, as well as the preservation and enhancement of the banks in the surroundings, including the lighting system of the monument and treatment of parking area for visitors.

Restoration and Enhancement of the Bridge of Vilela

The works also included the removal of existing vegetation in the batters of the Bridge, fumigating the masonry and joints with a herbicide, replacing those that stood in the wrong position or the area surrounding the Bridge. Stonework similar to the existing one was supplied, and these were washed with water and a nylon brush without additives.

Restoration and Enhancement of the Bridge of Vilela

Regarding the pavement, and after the removal of the vegetation, we proceeded to the removal of the stone slabs in those places in which these were misaligned, being then replaced after recovery and consolidation works.

Restoration and Enhancement of the Bridge of Vilela

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Know More
Bibliography

ALMEIDA, Carlos Alberto Ferreira de – História da Arte em Portugal: o Românico. Lisboa: Editorial Presença, 2001.

ALMEIDA, Carlos Alberto Ferreira de; BARROCA, Mário Jorge – História da Arte em Portugal: o Gótico. Lisboa: Editorial Presença, 2002.

MALHEIRO, Miguel [et al.] – “Ponte de Vilela”. In Estudo de Valorização e Salvaguarda das Envolventes aos Monumentos da Rota do Românico do Vale do Sousa: 2ª Fase. Porto: [s.n.], 2005. Vol. II.

ROSAS, Lúcia (Coord.) – Românico do Vale do Sousa. Lousada: Comunidade Urbana do Vale do Sousa, 2008.

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