The Bloody Bridge, its name between history and legend

The meaning of toponyms, that are the proper name of geographical places, comes from long histories that inexorably interweaves with the legend. The name of a bridge located near the historic center of Spoleto is a clear example. Events that popular tradition has linked to the Bloody Bridge are a lot and, as you can guess, none of these has a happy ending.

History of San Ponziano and his martyrdom

Although historical sources can not certainty testify which event led the bridge to have this name, the most accredited version by the tradition is about St. Ponziano’s martyrdom.
Around the 2nd century, when Marcus Aurelius was the undisputed emperor of the Roman Empire, a young nobleman named Ponziano lived in Spoleto. One day he met an aged preacher who had recently come to the city. The old man claimed that the gods worshiped by the Romans were just an illusion, and that all human beings were created by only one perfect Being, a single benevolent God who would have rewarded with eternal life whoever followed his word. Listening those words, Ponziano got upset and in the night, he brought many doubts with him on the bed. As soon as he was asleep, the God narrated by the old man a few hours before appeared to him in a dream and asked him to become his servant. The dream was so real, the emotion so such passionate that Ponziano had no hesitation: he converted himself and began a preacher of the Christians religion.
Nevertheless, the anti-Christian policies carried out by Marcus Aurelius were implacable: the emperor's soldiers came to Spoleto soon and Ponziano was involved in the ruthless persecution. According the tradition the young man was first thrown into the amphitheater - still visible nearby the bridge – together with the lions, but they did not dare to approach. Then the centurions took him and threw him into the hot coals, but Ponziano remained unharmed once again. Eventually, the soldiers, annoyed and even afraid, led him to the bridge that at the time led the Via Flaminia over the Tessino River. Today the river has naturally deviated to the East and the numerous floods over time buried the bridge, which was only discovered in 1817. There the soldiers beheaded Ponziano and threw his head in the river, as they do with many other Christians.

Other legends about the Blood Bridge of Spoleto

Although this story is very fascinating, there are some more "cautious" versions of the bridge naming history. It would seem that the bridge was called in the past San Gregorio Bridge, from the nearby Church of S. Gregorio, and that the word "sanguinario" is a simple corruption of the word "sangregorio".

The second hypothesis is more fascinating. "Sanguinario" does not come from "sangregorio" but from the Latin word "sandapilarius", the name of the amphitheater door directly connected to the bridge. One of the translations of sandapilarius is undertaker, but nobody has ever managed to find out the reason for that name, which remains hidden in the past centuries.

By visiting the bridge, the amphitheater and the nearby XII century Church of St. Ponziano you will have the opportunity to make your own ideas about these theories and if after the visit you will be exhausted by the mysterious legends that hover in that place, you can take a break in the many bars in the area. The Caffè dei Tigli, very close to the Sanguinary Bridge, will satisfy your needs with its spacious and comfortable rooms for will restore your mind and your belly with quick lunches, or a buffet aperitivo in its internal garden.

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