According to legend, a heavily-laden ship once sank in the place that is now Tiber Island (Isola Tiberina). And in truth the 300m long island has the appearance of a gigantic ship in the current -in republican times it was even topped by a mast-like obelisk. Around 200 BC, the cult of the healing god Aesculapius and his sacred snake was practised at this site; according to another legend, his boat anchored here.
Tiber Island: Ponte Fabricio
Thanks to the island, this was the most convenient place to build bridges across the river. In 62 BC, consul Fabricius connected the island with the right bank of the Tiber; today, it is the oldest surviving bridge in Rome. It bears his name but is also called the »Bridge of Four Heads« because of the two double Hermes heads on the parapet.
Tiber Island: San Bartolomeo
The church in the centre of the island was built over the ruins of the Temple of Aesculapius in the late 10th century under Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, and was restored by Martino Longhi the Younger in the Baroque period after it was flooded by the Tiber.
Notable features of the church are the beautiful Roman campanile, which represents the mast of the »ship«, and a lavishly decorated 12th-century marble fountain at the approach to the apse which shows Christ, saints Adalbert of Prague and Bartholomew, and Otto III.
The Ponte Cestio, constructed in 46 BC by Lucius Cestius and renovated by various emperors, leads across to Trastevere.
»Destroyed bridge« is the name given to the downstream remains of a bridge begun in wood by the Roman censors Emilius Lepidus – hence its former name Pons Aemilius – and Fulvius Nobilior in 179 BC; it later had 142 stone arches, the first of this kind in Rome.
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