This project represents the first comprehensive study of Byzantine bridges, gathering all remaining physical evidence in the Balkans and Asia Minor from the 4th to 15th century CE and culturally contextualizing these public structures using contemporary textual and visual sources. The material evidence examined to date reveals that the Byzantines implemented innovative technologies in bridge building, such as segmental arches, that predated similar developments in Western Europe by centuries, while preliminary investigations of textual and visual sources indicate that they possessed a unique, multi-level understanding of bridges coinciding with their worldview.
At the core of the project lies the documentation and analysis of bridge-building techniques. The ability to re-date and re-attribute some structures based on technical characteristics contributes to our knowledge of power, commerce and exchange across the Balkans and Asia Minor in the medieval period. Meanwhile the investigation of bridge adornment in conjunction with the bridge motif in contemporary texts and visual arts offers new insights into Byzantine society, the political and religious meanings of these secular monuments and the pervasion of religion in everyday life.
While previous studies of Byzantine culture have often been restricted to aspects of connoisseurship or the description of monuments, a thorough analysis of bridges – covering structural, decorative and symbolic aspects – will highlight the importance of this particular class of monuments as a new avenue into the Byzantine world and its architectural and cultural legacy. The academic investigation of Byzantine bridges will draw attention to their significance as architectural heritage, contributing to the documentation and preservation of rapidly disappearing historical monuments throughout the Eastern Mediterranean while raising historical awareness among contemporary communities and visitors.