Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bridge of Sighs -- original, Venice

Photo: Ponte dei sospiri, Venizia, Wikimedia

Designed by Antonio Contino, the Bridge of Sighs was built in the early seventeenth century and crossed the Rio Palazzio to connect two prisons, the old and the new.

Constructed of white limestone in the Italian Renaissance style, it is considered a fine example of bridge architecture. Two windows with stone bars stand at its summit.

Conflicting explanations have been given for the bridge's name. One says that it refers to the sighs of couples, who are traditionally believed to enjoy eternal love if they share a kiss while passing under the bridge in a gondola.

The darker version is associated with the lines of the poet Lord Byron in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, "I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs, a palace and a prison on each hand." For the prisoners who crossed from interrogation to imprisonment, the sighs may have represented their anticipated departure from freedom, or even from life itself.

Today the tourist to Venice can cross the bridge for a fee: it is part of the "secret itinerary" of the Doge's Palace tour.

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