A Brief History of Ponte alle Grazie in Florence
What is Ponte alle Grazie?
Ponte alle Grazie is a modern stone bridge first founded in the 13th century and named after a chapel that once stood nearby.
Ponte alle Grazie History
Although Florence is divided by the River Arno, its series of attractive, historic bridges help unite the two sides together. One of these is the Ponte alle Grazie. First founded in 1227, the crossing is older than the city’s most famous bridge, the Ponte Vecchio, found just a little further down the river. The Ponte alle Grazie’s current incarnation, however, dates from the 1950s.
When it was first built, the stone bridge was known as the Ponte di Rubaconte, after the name of the podestà (or mayor), Rubaconte da Mandello, who had commissioned the original construction and laid the first stone. The bridge survived the violent flood of the Arno, in 1333, which reportedly killed more than 3,000 people and washed away many of its wooden crossings. It was rebuilt with nine arches in the following decade by Lapo Tedesco, the architect behind the Bargello, and became the city’s longest bridge.
From around 1292, structures such as shops and chapels were built on the bridge. One of these chapels, dedicated to ‘Our Lady of Grace’, gave the bridge its current name. Huts for female hermits also appeared along the bridge. Charitable people walking over the Ponte alle Grazie would post food for them through small slots. The hermitages were eventually closed, and the women here sent to a convent near the Basilica di Santa Croce, the main Franciscan church in Florence. The hermitages were then used as homes until they were cleared and demolished in 1876, along with the other structures on the bridge, to make way for tracks for trams. At this time, the bridge subsequently lost many of its medieval characteristics.
The bridge was destroyed in August 1944 by German forces retreating from the advancing Allies. After the war, a competition was held to create a new design for a replacement. The winning entry came from a group of local architects and features four pillars with slender arches between them.
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