Ponte Milvio

April 21, 2008 / Local Interest
The first reference to Ponte Milvio (Milvius’ Bridge) dates back to 200 B.C., when it was still made of wood. Rebuilt out of stone in the 1st century B.C., Ponte Mollo (Soaked Bridge) as the Romans call it due to the Tiber’s propensity to regularly submerge part of it, was the beginning of the Cassia, Veientana, Flaminia, and Clodia ancient consular roads, which all forked out into ancient Rome’s vast northern territories.

While marching on Rome to become Emperor in 312 A.D., Constantine faced one last battle against Maxentius. Legend has it that before the battle Constantine had a vision of the Chi-Rho in the sky. (Chi and Rho are the first two Greek letters of Christ’s name, and were the symbol at the time for Christianity. The cross wasn’t yet in use and only came later.) He also read the phrase In hoc signo vinces (Victorious, under this sign). Sure enough he soundly defeated Maxentius (who drowned hightailing it back across the bridge apparently), became Emperor, and thanks to this singular divine intervention decided to decriminalize the worshiping of Christ throughout the Empire . . and the rest as they say is history.

While it has had its tough moments, such as Garibaldi blowing up part of it to keep the French Papal troops at bay, it is doing surprisingly well for a 2200 year old bridge. Better at least than Mussolini’s bridge just down river (constantly in need of repair). Slightly off the beaten path, it is well worth a visit in the morning, when you can also visit the lively local market, have a caffé e cornetto at Mondi (delicious!), and get to see the Roman lovers’ new padlock tradition.

(2nd photo courtesy of Anthony Majanlahti, use licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license)


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

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