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mail: Bill Thayer 
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Form Follows Function
in Medieval Italy


[image ALT: A view of the medieval bridge in Apecchio, Marche (central Italy).]

I know very little about this bridge, and indeed about bridges in general: but as a lover of old stone, for years I'd wanted to come to Apecchio and look at this beautiful structure. Thanks to a friend, I finally did, in April 2004.


[image ALT: A view of the medieval bridge in Apecchio, Marche (central Italy).]

This pulled-back view from upstream shows the reason for the characteristic shape of the bridge: the medieval architect seems to have felt that he needed a Gothic arch to handle the stresses, probably because one or more round-arched bridges at this spot had already been swept away. The geometry of the ogive in turn requires a certain height to develop, yet the roadway is much lower; the humpback shape — the Italian phrase is ponte a schiena d' asino or "donkey-back bridge" — is the result.


[image ALT: A view of the medieval bridge in Apecchio, Marche (central Italy).]

View from downstream, with Judith providing scale.


[image ALT: The stone pavement of a bridge, with chevron-shaped ribs. It is a view of the medieval bridge in Apecchio, Marche (central Italy).]

There is nothing artistic about this beautiful pavement; it's a case of "Form follows function." Imagine it raining: you are glad to have these carefully thought-out ribs to help you keep your footing as you climb up and down. For another view of pavement and parapet, see the Apecchio homepage.


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Site updated: 4 May 05